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Strangers

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Dream had many of stories he could tell you about Denny’s, he’d witnessed fights, robberies and almost certainly contracted a disease or two from the food but if you’d told the Clay from a year ago that he’d stand in a Denny’s with a gun in each hand pointed at two strangers with two more guns pointed straight at him, he would have told you you were clinically insane.

That was, of course, the Dream of before the apocalypse, he was a very different person now.

In fact, there was something inherently wrong with the fact that Dream felt much safer in foreign woods in the dead of night by himself than in a bustling city with his family and friends nearby but that had been the truth of life for almost a year. Other people were dangerous and you were the only one that you could trust.

Dream knew that, the people he avoided knew that and his family had known it in their final moments.

Dream didn’t want to proclaim petty ‘I told you so’s to their souls but the want was persistent after Dream had warned them repeatedly not to let the begging pregnant woman into their house.

Even the vulnerable could be vultures after the outbreak.

And in the end, Dream had been right despite how much he didn’t want to be. The bitch had ripped the throat clean out of his father before plunging a steak knife into his mother’s forehead, finishing her performance with a clean break to his little sister’s neck.

Dream was only able to escape after shooting the woman’s pregnant stomach with his father’s hunting rifle; not enough to kill her, nothing seemed to kill those monsters, but it was enough to stun her long enough for him to run.

That’s all he had done since that day, run and never look back.

The days had started to blur together many moons ago and Dream was only just about able to keep track of the fleeting months to know it was around mid-May. The beginnings of summer with the occasional rain shower that the curse of spring loved to inflict.

It wasn’t awful, the patter of raindrops was a pleasant distraction as he trudged through the bleak forests he had called home for numerous months, working like clockwork each night to set up camp and raid stores like some pretentious asshole in an apocalypse film.
He couldn’t afford to stay in one place for too long and as cliché as it sounded, Dream had learned to realise that those films were far too accurate to write off entirely. It was kill or be killed, a matter of leaving your humanity with the people you had lost and doing whatever it takes to survive.

The only exception was that Dream had a goal; no, he wasn’t mindlessly trying to live to run from the fear of dying, he was living to find a way to end the creatures who had killed the young and naive Clay in his family home all those months ago.

And all those months of living were compressed in a tightly-bound leather notebook he had scavenged from a rundown Target during one of his food runs, pages and pages of jumbled ink and notes running into each other like bumper cars at a fair, stories and theories bouncing through the page through crudely drawn pictures and diagrams.

It was everything he knew about the monsters, whether it be what they were, where they came from and more importantly, how you could kill them.

Dream trudged through the forest with his brows furrowed, bandana pulled tight around his mouth as he slashed through branches with his axe, cringing at the unavoidable noise.

The noise was dangerous, they could hear you from anywhere and it was never worth the risk. Dream couldn’t remember the last time he had spoken even if he wanted to, whenever the time comes for him to speak, he hopes his voice won’t crack like fragile glass.

He doubts the monsters will take pity on him for a voice crack worthy of a prepubescent boy.

The monsters themselves were something Dream could only describe as an oddity. It would be wrong to call them zombies, at least in the sense of how those apocalyptic movies had portrayed them. No, these beasts were intelligent, they didn’t rot or groan or eat brains but they were no less lethal.

They could run, they could handle weaponry, a vast majority of them could use firearms and every single one of them shared one trait, a seemingly insatiable thirst for bloodlust.

There was no rhyme or reason, only violence with no mercy and what only made it worse is that you wouldn’t know who was there to rip your heart out or who was simply hiding to preserve whatever miserable life they had left.

They would kill you and the parasitic disease would make quick work of your corpse, reanimating it with inhuman regeneration and sending you on your way to drag others to hell with you. Whatever it was, it was airborne. It was simply a matter of when you died for it to sink its claws in.

The bandana around his mouth suddenly felt much more suffocating but Dream shrugged it off, barging his way through a particularly fiddly bunch of branches.

He was beginning to get hungry and the backpack flung over his shoulder was starting to feel worryingly light.

Dream worked quickly and efficiently, moving with nearly perfect silence as he praised himself for his stamina, slowly slipping out of the tree line with his eyes narrowed and alert, slipping his axe into his belt loop as he produced one of his smaller handguns, checking it was loaded within a couple of seconds as he started to move away from his cover of the forest with precise footsteps and his body crouched as low to the ground as he could go.

The area was deserted with only a few abandoned cars dotting the landscape like murals to the people who had run from them for their lives, splats of blood dried into the road telling enough of a story for Dream’s stomach to sink.

He hoped the ones that had turned there had long-since vacated the area.

He continued to scour the area, using the cars to his advantage as he pressed himself against the cold and scratched metal to hide from any slight noise. He was just about to move away from a battered Ford when he heard it, a distant feral scream and the crack of bones as a presumed creature recovered from an attack.

Dream ducked back to his hiding spot, holding his breath like it was a precious treasure as he waited for the thing to leave, gun noticeably pressing its weight into his sweaty palm to remind him of the alternative; an alternative Dream did not want to turn to. If there was already one of those things near here then there could easily be dozens more.

So he waited, limbs cramping with how tightly he was tensing them as the thing started to move. It sounded awkward and forced, grunting and swearing as it lined up next to the car Dream was pressed against and the blond felt his heart do summersaults as the thing yelled in frustration, a metallic clink sounding out as Dream watched a bullet bounce across the road closely followed by another. They were coated in a sheen of fresh blood, its normally red tint looking borderline brown as if rotten and Dream shuddered as the thing collected itself, wet noises echoing across the sea of cars as its skin and flesh stitched together again as it continued to walk away.

He would need to add the blood colour to his notes, that wasn't the first time he had noticed the change and he could no longer claim it a coincidence.

Dream watched it carefully, moving an inch at a time as he slipped around to the opposite side of the car, now completely out of sight of the creature and he finally released the breath he was holding in relief.

He was not in the mood for a fight and it seemed like someone had already gotten a few shots at the monster, if there was anything worse than fighting off a bloodthirsty zombie it was fighting off one that was angry.

Dream remained still for a few more minutes and when the surroundings remained hauntingly quiet he allowed himself to finally move, finishing his dart across the long stretch of road and finding himself in what was once probably a busy street filled with rushing families and rowdy teenagers.

And like a gift sent from the heavens, a half-ruined Denny’s stood proud in the middle of the street, frozen in time and hopefully containing something edible. It was the closest thing Dream had to a food source so he had to pray to whichever god hadn’t abandoned him yet that he would find something.

The diner was miserably easy to get into, though that might not be an incredible fortune if there were any more creatures nearby but Dream had no time to wallow in the what-ifs and made quick work of scavenging through the dust and upturned tables.

There wasn’t much to find, the place already being raided and he grunted as he heaved open the final freezer, finding a few slabs of frosted meat that theoretically could work as a meal if only he didn’t need to cook it. He didn’t like the idea of lighting a fire in such an open area on his own.

He huffed, letting the freezer close as he adjusted his backpack straps only to pause as his keen eyes caught sight of something across the room.

Footsteps.

Something else was here with him, they were too fresh amongst the dust to be aged.

Scrunching his nose in focus under the bandana, he flexed his fingers around his gun as he reached slowly to his leg holster to slip his other one free, aiming slowly around the room as he felt his throat itch in preparation.

“Who the fuck’s there?” He barked, voice unsteady from misuse as he listened for an answer, peeking around a corner with guns at the ready. “I can see your footprints, dickweed, show yourself and I won’t shoot.”

“How about you put the guns down and we won’t shoot?” A new voice announced itself and Dream spun to see two strangers with pistols aimed right at his forehead that he quickly mirrored. “Don’t be an idiot.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so, how do I know you won’t shoot anyway?” Dream hissed, holding back his coughs as he tried to create distance between himself and the pair.

“How do we know you’re not gonna shoot us regardless?” The second person hummed, tilting their head in the most condescending way Dream could imagine. “Put your weapons on the floor and we’ll be on our way.”

Dream’s eyes narrowed, hands shaking as he held his aim. “I think the fuck not.”

There was silence as the three stared each other out with distrust, every movement leading to the barrel of the gun flicking through the air to track its target.

“How do you expect us to trust you, stranger?” The second person asked after a moment, gesturing with their gun. Dream scowled, understanding the sentiment. He didn’t trust either of them as much as they didn’t trust him.

“I’ll tell you what,” Dream decided. “Cut yourself,” he ordered bluntly, finding slight amusement from how the strangers’ faces twisted in confusion.

“Ex-fucking-cuse me?” The first person swore, stepping closer with their gun steady.

“Your blood,” Dream minimally explained. “If you’re not lying and you’ve lived this long you must have hurt one of these creatures, you’ve seen their blood, right?”

There was silence as the two looked between each other. “Yeah, we’ve seen it. It looks brown, a lot darker than ours.”

“Exactly,” Dream grinned under his bandana. “What a better way to prove we’re human than to bleed like one in the middle of a fucking Denny’s.”

The silence stretched a moment longer before one of the strangers shrugged, tucking their gun away and pulling out a small, clearly aged pocket knife.

“Sapnap, what are you doing?” The second person hissed and the first, Sapnap, shrugged.

“They have a point, I have nothing to lose anyway, I know I’m not turned.”

Dream watched expectantly as the stranger sliced his palm, not a hint of hesitance on his face as the blood began to bead on the wound, bright ruby dripping across his hand and slipping through his fingers. “See,” Sapnap waved tauntingly with the wound on full show. “Red as fucking rubies.”

Well, he wasn’t lying, and there was no way a human would be travelling with someone unless they were certain they weren’t turned. It seemed they were both safe.

Dream lowered his guns but scowled when the other two didn’t follow suit.

“Don’t think so,” the second, still unknown stranger tutted, gesturing for Sapnap’s knife that he then slid across the floor to Dream’s feet. “Your turn, and no funny business, I won’t hesitate to shoot your face off.”

Dream took a deep breath before he slid one of his guns back into his holster, squatting slowly with his eyes focused on the strangers as he reached for the knife, not wasting a moment before dragging it across his palm and watching his own crimson blood drip from the dully stinging cut. “Happy?” He asked and he huffed in approval when the strangers finally lowered their weapons.

After wiping the blood off the blade with his sleeve, which was already too bloodstained for him to care, Dream tossed the knife back to Sapnap who caught it easily, nodding in thanks as he slipped it back to where he had originally produced it.

When neither party made attempts to move, Dream shrugged, squatting to the floor again as he tugged his backpack off, rummaging through his limited supplies until he found the tattered box he was using as a first-aid kit. With the roll of bandages now in hand, he wound it around his bleeding palm, grunting as he tore the bandage free with his teeth and sighing at the amateur handy-work.

The strangers were watching him cautiously as he worked and he studied them before he threw the roll to his bleeding counterpart, gesturing to his similarly wounded hand.

“Wrap it before it gets infected or something, you want to survive out there? Try not to die from an infection, yeah?” Dream mocked, ignoring the wary glances from the still unintroduced stranger as Sapnap inspected the bandages with an unreadable expression.

“Thanks,” he eventually responded and Dream nodded as he quickly covered the cut, tying it with about the same expertise as Dream had his own. “What’s your name, stranger?” Sapnap eventually asked as he tossed the bandages back to an expecting Dream and his partner snorted in exasperation.

“We’re not here to make friends, Sapnap, we need to get moving,” he hissed but Sapnap pouted, punching his friend’s arm.

“Loosen up a little, this is the first actual human we’ve seen in weeks,” Sapnap exclaimed. “He’s much better company than the fucker we met outside and frankly, George, you’re insufferable.”

George rolled his eyes. “I’m insufferable? You’re trying to befriend a potentially dangerous stranger!”

“You were a potentially dangerous stranger a few months ago, ass wipe,” Sapnap retorted. “Besides, would it not be better to bring him anyway, I thought you knew a safe haven?”

“What makes the safe haven a safe haven is the fact there’s no potential threats there,” George spat, glancing at Dream who was watching the exchange indifferently. “We’ll be on our way, be careful outside, there’s an undead just across the road.”

“I know,” Dream hummed, still not used to hearing his own voice forget about conversing with other humans. “I slipped by it earlier getting here, you were the ones that shot it?”

“George was the one who shot it,” Sapnap corrected, bumping into the aforementioned’s shoulder. “He’s like, superhuman with a gun, it's insane!”

George looked tired compared to Sapnap’s buzzing high energy and Dream couldn’t help but be fascinated by the dynamic. George was certainly interesting, a cold enigma that Dream couldn’t help but admire.

He had the apocalypse persona down to a T.

“No, I’ve just had practice,” George spat, glaring at Sapnap who smiled innocently up at him. “Now come on, we’ve been here too long already.”

“Aw, George, come on,” Sapnap drawled. “At least let the guy introduce himself.”

George looked between the two before sighing, rubbing his eyes as he gestured to Dream to get on with it.

“Dream,” Dream told them bluntly. “That’s my name.”

“Dream?” Sapnap echoed. “That’s so fucking cool, seriously, George, look! He’s chill, why can’t we bring him?” The man looked like a kicked puppy, it was almost impressive how well his act seemed to chip at George’s exterior.

“Well, does he have anything to offer?” George questioned, glaring directly at Dream who could only smile sarcastically under his bandana. He hoped it showed through his eyes. “I’m not bringing along dead weight.”

“I’m a good shot,” Dream shrugged. He didn’t necessarily care for going with them, even if the idea of a safe haven was the best imagery Dream had been graced with in months, but the dig at his ego had him reeling to boast. “I’m a decent hunter too, as long as there are things to hunt and I know stuff.”

“Stuff?” George’s eyes narrowed.

“Stuff about them,” Dream replied vaguely but Sapnap and George both understood him perfectly.

“What do you know?” Sapnap asked, fascinated, waving his gun in the air. “How to kill them?”

“Yeah, what do you know?” George followed up, significantly less excited but infinitely more intrigued.

“I’ve been studying them for about a year now, I know roughly how the infection spreads, I know how to stun them enough to essentially incapacitate them and I know how to hide from them,” Dream listed off, pages upon pages running through his mind with piles of scrambled information and jumbled, misspelt words.

“I wouldn’t call that dead weight,” Sapnap teased and Dream was shocked to see George actually consider it. From his incredibly brief encounter so far with the man he seemed almost untouchable, with his mind made up weeks ago.

How had Dream so quickly managed to sway him?

“You can incapacitate them?” George gaped. “We can never get them down for more than a minute or two.”

Dream nodded proudly and George grimaced, gnawing on his lip before quietly yelling in frustration.

“Fine, come on, Sapnap, we’re leaving, and stranger, you can come if you want, I know a place a few weeks walk from here that the military is running, there’s no infection there,” George told him, plainly laying out the invitation that Dream was tempted to take. Humans weren’t to be trusted but a supposed safe haven was too good to pass up.

“I told you my name is Dream,” he smirked, closing his bag and hauling it back onto his shoulder as he put his gun back in its holster and reproduced his axe.

“And I don’t care,” George hissed, storming to the door with anger bleeding from the footprints he left behind in the dust. “Are you coming or not, stranger?”

Dream caught Sapnap’s eyes who was practically bouncing with eagerness and he let himself cave in.

“Sure, why the hell not?”

Chapter Text

A mere two weeks into travelling was all it took for Dream to remember all of the things he missed about humanity, most of those things being George’s core personality traits.

He was fun to mess with and Dream and Sapnap got on like a house on fire as they all but tormented the oldest of their travelling group, those were the little things that Dream had forgotten he treasured about humans. The stupid jokes and the easy amusement helped the days pass quicker and Dream found he didn’t dread the darkness of the night falling anymore as that more often than not meant they would set up camp, build a small fire and talk until they couldn’t form a sentence anymore.

Even George seemed to value the peaceful normalcy the night brought.

“Hey, stranger, can you throw me my backpack?” George had muttered, leant against a tree a few weeks into travelling together. He still hadn’t called Dream by his name to his face.

“Stranger? I don’t see a stranger around here,” Dream had hummed, crouched by the beginnings of the fire as he fed it twigs and dried leaves. “I can get it for you though, you know, Dream, the guy you’ve been living with for half a month?”

“Never heard of him,” George spat, eyes cold as he searched for Sapnap in the camp. “Sap, can you grab it?”

“Dream can get it,” Sapnap grinned, sending the man in question a wink as Dream choked on his laughter. “Why don’t you ask him?”

George’s glare could rival the threat of the zombies as Dream and Sapnap giggled like children, the former’s eyes scrunched with amusement as his toothy grin hid under his dirty bandana.

“Go on, George, ask me.”

There was silence before George sighed in defeat, sagging against the tree. “Can you please get my bag?”

“Who do you mean?” Sapnap dragged out the joke, smile knowing and cheeky.

“Him,” George spat, nodding in Dream’s direction.

“Who?” Dream feigned innocence.”Sorry, my eyesight isn’t the best.”

George couldn’t seem to find a response to continue his stubborn stand on boycotting friendliness and he groaned in annoyance, throwing himself away from the tree as he stormed towards his bag. “You’re fucking insufferable.”

“You love me really,” Dream hummed as the eldest dug through his bag like a man on a mission. “Just admit it, George, I make you nervous because you have a big, fat crush on me.”

“I’ll fucking kill you,”’ George retorted, pulling his gun from his bag and pointing it at the blond’s forehead, grip startlingly steady as if he wouldn’t hesitate to actually pull the trigger. “If anyone has a crush here, it’s you. You’re fucking obsessed with me, stranger.”

“Aw, look, Sap, he has nicknames for me and everything,” Dream cooed, acting unphased and Sapnap gushed with him, only lasting a few seconds before he erupted into laughter as George dropped the gun in exasperation.

“Adorable,” the youngest giggled and Dream cackled as he ducked to avoid the flying projectile of a rock George hurled at him. “A lover’s quarrel.”

“I should have left you both behind,” George huffed, throwing his gun back into his bag as he pulled out his hoodie from the depths of his backpack, realising moments later what had happened. “Oh, are you fucking joking me?”

Dream’s laughter died down into fond hiccups as he picked up on the other’s distress, eyebrow raising in confusion amongst the remainder of his laughter as George tossed his hoodie to the floor. “What’s the matter?”

“My flask leaked in there, the thing is soaked!” He complained, pointing to the incriminating hoodie. “It’s absolutely freezing as well.”

“L,” Sapnap shrugged, riding on the end of his giggles as George threw his head back in distress. 

Dream, on the other hand, couldn’t help but feel a little bad as his eyes ghosted down to his obnoxious green, bloodstained hoodie, the thing having lasted him for many years and holding enough memories to be more sentimental than a photo album.

He was warm enough due to the fire anyway, he decided.

He shrugged the item off, feeling the remainder of his body heat clinging to the fabric and he tossed it across the camp into the unsuspecting lap of George. “Here take mine, you’re the one with the directions, can’t have you freezing to death before we get to the safe haven.”

There was a stunned silence as George stared dumbly at the hoodie, fist grasped in the cloth as he computed what had happened. “Yeah, the safe haven,” George drawled, completely zoned out.

“You gonna put it on or were you complaining for the sake of it?” Dream asked, heart hammering in his chest, finally realising the weight of what he’d done. 

He’d given George his fucking hoodie like he was his god-damned boyfriend or something.

George waited a moment more before he moved slowly, pulling the fabric over his head and messing up his curls. The hoodie swamped him, the cloth folding over itself in waves around his waist as he tried desperately to straighten it out, sinking unconsciously into its heat as he looked at it indifferently. “Who the fuck owns a yellow hoodie?” He eventually whispered, looking to Dream who only cocked an eyebrow in confusion.

“What?” His voice twisted. ”It’s green, you dumb idiot.”

“Oh,” George sighed. “That explains it, sorry I’m colourblind but I’m assuming green is still ugly, you fucking weirdo.” He spat, folding his arms as he turned away from Dream, a pout on his lips as Dream choked on laughter.

“You’re colourblind?” Sapnap butted in with a grin. “You’re only taking Ls today, buddy.”

“Can’t take an L if I never had the W to begin with,” George shrugged, pulling his legs to his chest as he tried to make himself comfortable against the rough bark of the tree. “Now please for the love of God, shut up, I wanna sleep.”

The pair complied, Dream tossing another pile of sticks into the flames as George drifted to sleep, Sapnap trying his best to swallow a yawn as he laid across the ground by the fire, eyes drooping as he traced the outlines of the stars with a single finger.

“Thanks by the way,” George whispered, shattering the silence as Dream jumped at the sudden noise. “For the hoodie,” he clarified.

Dream snorted, revelling in the fact he’d cracked George’s exterior if only a little. “No problem, George, you look good in yellow anyway, now go to sleep.”

There was a bark of laughter from George as he shuffled again to get more comfortable. “Goodnight, stranger.”

Chapter Text

A few more days passed by without a hitch and the group had finally found a balance of personalities, finding that in complete honesty they got on a lot better than they ever would have expected.

George fit into Dream and Sapnap’s budding partnership like he was always supposed to be a part of it and Dream, much to his distaste, found his lighthearted jokes about George having a crush on him were starting to gather some weight.

George had yet to return his hoodie, not that Dream minded, but as he grew colder in the harsh nights George warmed up exceptionally quickly.

He stopped distancing himself to outlying trees and instead the three grouped together like packed tuna by the fire, faces illuminated by the embers as they let the night drip by like sand through their fingers.

Dream spent many hours staring into the flames licking around the sticks wondering how he had spent so much time alone; it had been so hard to trust anyone but being vulnerable in such a demanding situation was somehow the most refreshed Dream had felt since he had run from his familys’ corpses.

“How did you two end up travelling together then?” Dream asked one night, poking at the fire with a long stick he had torn from a nearby tree.

“He fell in love with me as soon as he saw me,” Sapnap proudly replied, puffing his chest as George sighed in disappointment. “He begged me to come with him so we wouldn’t have to part.”

“Yeah, no,” George monotonously drawled, burrowing into Dream’s hoodie as the latter patiently awaited his explanation. “You’re what, sixteen, Sapnap? If I’d fallen in love with you there would have been some serious problems.”

“You can’t be that old, George,” Dream teased. “You don’t look a day older than seventy.”

“Ha ha, comedy genius, stranger,” George tilted his head in exaggeration, his tone so flat it was almost a wonder he could produce it. “I’m twenty-one, asshole, respect your elders.”

“Who’s to say you’re older?” Dream teased, eyes pinched in a grin.

“I caught you asking Sapnap to heat up your bottle last week,” George smiled mockingly but his eyes betrayed his lighthearted nature. “I’d be shocked if your voice had already dropped.”

“I think you were hallucinating, you senile old man,” Dream continued to tease, laughing as George batted at him with the oversized sleeves of the now stolen hoodie. “But seriously, I’d be nineteen now, it was an amazing apocalypse birthday party too, I invited all the local zombies.”

“I’m sure they had a great time playing musical chairs with you,” Sapnap laughed and Dream nodded eagerly.

“Oh, one hundred per cent, Linda was a very sore loser though.”

Quiet laughter echoed through the group as the joking died down to a dull buzz of happiness that almost seemed to make the fire burn brighter.

“You never really answered me,” Dream broke the silence, stretching slightly in his seated position as he looked between the others. “How the fuck did you end up together with George being as annoying and stubborn as he is?”

“I’m actually lovely to be around,” George huffed. “You’re just an asshole.”

“An asshole whose hoodie you’re wearing,” Dream shot back with a quirked eyebrow, barking with laughter as George turned beet-red.

He didn’t know how to feel about the butterflies that swarmed his stomach at the fact he had made George blush.

“He saved me, Dream,” Sapnap eventually interrupted, surprisingly sincere. “I have migraines or something and they misdiagnosed me. I was on epilepsy medication and I ended up collapsing with low blood pressure, I was in hospital when the outbreak really started to surge.”

George nodded in confirmation. “A friend of mine at the time needed medical shit so I went to the hospital to try and steal what I could and noticed the creatures were spreading inside as well from the morgue.”

“They would have killed me if George didn’t shoot them to pieces to get me out, it was so fucking badass,” Sapnap finished with a smile. “I don’t know how he found me but fuck did I get lucky, he nursed me to health after the things got my parents and then offered to bring me to the haven!”

Dream’s eyes involuntarily widened in shock as George gnawed on his lip looking incredibly singled out, it was almost endearing. “You really did that for him?”

“Of course,” George whispered in reply, choking on his own words. “I’m not a monster.”

Silence settled across the camp again, not exactly an awkward one but one that seemed to stir thoughts amongst them like a twisted cocktail of misconceptions.

“Well,” Sapnap cleared his throat. “What about you, Dream?”

“Huh,” Dream perked up, adjusting his bandana as it slipped down the bridge of his nose from how quickly he looked up.

“How did you end up out here alone? Apart from your zombie birthday guests that is,” Sapnap clarified and George nodded too.

“Yeah, stranger, what’s your story?”

Dream shrugged nonchalantly, poking at the fire again. There wasn't a need to anymore, the kindling had caught exceptionally well and the flames blazed like a powerful force of nature. “It’s pretty stereotypical, my family was killed almost immediately and I had nowhere to go so I just started walking and I didn’t stop,” he recounted, eyes sullen as he remembered the brutal slaughter in his family home.

He didn’t think about that day often, the blood and the gurgling screams being something he would much rather forget.

“So all the research,” Sapnap asked, eyes soft with his unspoken condolences. There was no use audibly giving them, they wouldn’t bring anyone back and they wouldn’t make the creatures leave. “Is it some sort of revenge plot, a way to kill them for what they did to your family?”

Dream just shrugged again. “I mean, I guess so,” he hummed, pages and pages of theories and accounts dashing through his mind. “It would be nice to avenge them but it’s more for the people still here, so I wouldn’t say revenge, I’d say it’s hope that one day I can build another family of my own without having to constantly watch my back.”

George hummed in consideration. “It’s a nice sentiment,” he offered, leaning closer to the fire as he played with the hoodie sleeves. “Are you close to killing them?”

“Sort of,” Dream winced. “I don’t know how to actually kill the infection but I know where to kill it from if that’s any help.”

George hummed in thought, looking away to stare at the sky in concentration. You could see the gears turning like clockwork behind his eyes as Sapnap listened in awe.

“You’re also an honorary badass for surviving that long on your own though,” the youngest chirped and Dream laughed, bumping playfully into his shoulder.

“It wasn’t hard, I’m just better than you,” he teased and Sapnap stuck his tongue out childishly in retaliation.

“Is that what the bandana’s for?” Sapnap pressed further and Dream looked at him in confusion.

“My bandana?” He echoed.

“Yeah, like you’ve been with us for nearly a month and I’ve never seen you without it, like dude you eat with your back to us, do you have a battle scar or something, or a dark past you want to hide?” Sapnap rambled, eyes bright with questions.

“It’s because the infection is airborne, Sap,” George hijacked the conversation. 

Dream’s head whipped towards him, eyes shining with unfiltered surprise. “How the fuck did you know that?”

George similarly shrugged. “I just assumed from context clues, I can’t think of any other way it could spread so I guessed you got to the same conclusion,” he sounded uncertain of himself.

“Is that really it?” Sapnap grumbled, upset at the anticlimactic reasoning.

Dream laughed, “Eh, partly that. It started like that but it’s been so long since I’ve been with other people and it’s been just as long since I took this thing off, I forgot what I looked like and I don’t know, the idea of someone else seeing me feels wrong now.”

Sapnap gave an open-mouthed signal of understanding but George snorted playfully. “Nah, I just think you’re ugly and you’re too embarrassed to let us see.”

Dream smirked. “I’m far from it, George, in fact, I’d say I’m just your type which is just an added bonus since you already have a massive crush on me.”

“Oh, sure,” George played along and Dream struggled to swallow the butterflies that threatened to escape from his twisting insides.

Teasing George was as funny as it was at the beginning but Dream didn’t know how much longer he could keep up with his own pace.

Chapter Text

A few days later saw the forest thinning out into a large park and the group were forced to hop over a battered iron fence, standing exposed in the middle of what was once a football pitch, white lines faded in the grass and the nets torn to shreds in the goalposts.

“We must have reached a town or city,” Dream murmured, shoulders raised in alert as he slowly pulled his axe from his belt. “This place is probably riddled with zombies.”

Quick hands inspected the bullet chamber of a gun as Sapnap armed himself, pressing close to Dream’s side as George flanked the other, slipping his gun free with lethal silence.

“I know where we are,” George whispered, motioning quietly for the others to follow as he ran across the pitch and slipped through a hole in the chain-link fence that surrounded it. “We’re on the right track for the haven, only a week or two more at most.”

Dream sagged in relief and couldn’t help but smile as he watched Sapnap bounce with excitement, face set with determination as George led them down the old, concrete path that weaved through the park.

“I can’t wait to sleep in an actual bed again!” The youngest proclaimed, smiling sheepishly as George shushed him. “Will it really be the end, George? No more running?”

George stayed quiet, lips downturned as his knuckles turned white from his crippling grip on his gun. “Yeah, Sap. You won’t need to run anymore.”

Dream watched George carefully, seeing how his demeanour seemed to sink at the statement and he frowned as he continued to follow the eldest along the trail. “You don’t seem too happy about that, George,” Dream pointed out.

George sighed, shaking his head as he looked Dream in the eyes, his soft brown ones flitting between the startling green of Dream’s. “No, I am, I’m just tired is all.”

Dream didn’t fucking believe a word but he neglected to say anything.

He had no right to poke at something George wasn’t willing to share, even if his stomach did twist with worry as he watched George silently navigate the park.

They walked in silence, flinching at every slight bird chirp or crack of twig with their weapons drawn and before long they were faced with the exit to the park, only to find the gate firmly locked and the top of the fence lined with barbed wire that almost sparkled tauntingly in the light.

None of them mentioned the very clear bloodstains coating it, the violent image of someone desperately trying to escape only to be mutilated enough to mute them.

“Now what?” Sapnap huffed, pulling at the padlock with furrowed eyebrows as the thing remained sturdy.

“Watch out,” Dream instructed firmly, decidedly not giving the pair a choice of options as he ushered George out of the way of his swing zone. “Keep an eye out in case something runs over.”

He adjusted the grip on his handle as he hauled the axe over his shoulder, driving it down with force into the lock repeatedly as the metal screamed for mercy under his attack. He collected himself, pulling his axe back once more and slamming it with all the strength he could muster into the padlock, laughing amongst his pants of exhaustion as the lock fell from the gate in shattered pieces, the gate innocently swinging open.

“Come on, we need cover for the night, this place is too open to camp outside,” he said plainly, choosing to ignore the shocked stares from Sapnap and George.

“You are so fucking badass!” Sapnap screeched, running after Dream after standing in awe for a few extended moments as George worked to pull his jaw from the floor.

“He’s insane,” George corrected breathlessly and Dream shrugged, silently proud of how flabbergasted he had reduced George to.

“If it works, then it works, now seriously, do you know this place?” Dream questioned, gesturing to George who scanned the street they were now standing in, nodding in confirmation. “Good, where can we set up for the night?”

George thought for a second more as Sapnap impatiently bounced next to him, to his credit continuing to watch their surrounding area with his gun securely held in front of him. “There’s a cinema about ten minutes from here, it has maybe half a dozen screens? We can stay in one of them for a while and the seats might be comfy for a change?” He offered, pointing in the general direction of where they’d be walking.

Dream looked to Sapnap who shrugged and Dream mirrored him, returning his axe to his hip as he sarcastically bowed with a hand outstretched to allow George to walk first. “Elderly first,” he grinned and he couldn't help but laugh as George swatted at him before giving in and leading the way along the road, sidestepping to avoid the dark patches that didn’t quite blend into the tarmac.

A once-bustling street was now no more than a graveyard.

“So, how do you know this place, George?” Sapnap chirped, half-mindedly tugging on Dream’s backpack straps to mess with him.

“I grew up here,” he replied vaguely and Dream hummed in thought as he suddenly spun around and flicked Sapnap in the forehead in retaliation.

“If you’re gonna annoy me at least be prepared for an attack,” he laughed as Sapnap rubbed at the quickly reddening patch of skin with a pout. “It must be weird being back then, George,” Dream quickly changed the subject, head tilting as he watched George move cautiously as if he would step wrong and the ground would open up beneath him to swallow him whole.

“Yeah, it feels wrong, the last time I was here I-“ he choked on his sentence, shaking his head as Dream frowned with worry.

“You don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to,” he said softly and George only continued to shake his head.

“No, no, it’s fine, stranger, I just never thought I’d see this place again,” he whispered and Dream nodded in understanding. He couldn’t imagine returning to his hometown after everything that had happened. “Just a few bad memories, nothing serious.”

“Wow, George lore!” Sapnap laughed lightheartedly, effectively brightening the mood with a grin. “I never thought I’d see the day!”

“Well, you won’t see tomorrow if you don’t shut the fuck up,” George huffed but he was failing miserably at biting back his smile, quiet puffs of laughter falling past his pursed lips as Dream cheered him on.

“You did it, Sap! He shows emotions!”

Subdued laughter bounced around the abandoned street as they all tried to suppress their childish giggles, the looming fear of nearby zombies always present and yet somehow forgettable as they all joked and played like a group of teenagers; as if two of them technically still were and were just too scarred and hardened by life to remember that fact.

The cinema George had told them about was quickly upon them and like a system they poured through the door, guns drawn and faces stern as they scouted the entrance and pushed their way through the building to one of the back screens.

Once they were positive they were safe Sapnap made quick work of sprawling himself along a row of seats, old lumps of popcorn sticking to his dirty jacket as Dream stretched, throwing his bag into a corner and investigating the many empty rows and the torn movie screen.

“Fuck, I didn’t realise how sore my back was until now,” Sapnap grumbled, stretching his length along the seats with each of his joints popping and cracking in series. “I could easily just stay here and never go to the haven!”

“Yeah, but the beds in the safe haven will be even softer,” Dream tempted, eyebrow raising as he smiled under his bandana. “Imagine it, Sapnap, a pillow!”

George shook his head exasperatedly as Sapnap excitedly sat up, slamming his palms into the seats for effect, the clouds of dust that billowed up as consequence only adding to the effect.

“Eh, maybe he’s onto something though,” George shrugged. “We wouldn’t need to travel anymore, just set up camp here and guard our turf till the day we die.”

“What about food?” Dream hummed and George shrugged again.

“We’d manage.”

“No procreation?” Sapnap gasped sarcastically. “You want us to live and die here with no babies?”

“With what women?” George sighed, looking at the youngest with an almost fond smile on his lips.

“Who said anything about women? You and Dream could get it on just fine,” Sapnap grinned, pure unbridled chaos shining in his eyes as the two in question went bright red, glancing between themselves and Sapnap with panic pushing down on their chests.

“What the fuck?” George screeched. “I wouldn’t let that stranger put his dick anywhere near me!”

Dream, whose heart was entirely beating out of his chest with vigour, tried his best to force a laugh. “Oh, so you admit you’d be bottoming, yeah, George?”

“Fuck you!” George screeched, eyes wild with embarrassment as his blush bled red into the tips of his ears as he burrowed himself into the hoodie to hide only to realise just whose hoodie he was hiding in, flinching away from the fabric like it had burned him as he gave up. “I’m going up to the roof, to keep watch,” he stumbled and everybody knew it was bullshit.

Nobody stopped him though as he hurried out of the fire escape and disappeared up the flurry of stairs, the echo of his footsteps filling the screening room as Sapnap choked on his manic laughter.

“You’re awful,” Dream breathed, lighthearted but not entirely joking. “Why would you say that?”

“You played along,” Sapnap defended himself with a pointed rebuttal and Dream couldn’t argue back so he simply avoided that fact.

“Yeah, but you started it,” he huffed like a toddler. “We don’t like each other like that!”

“Yeah? And the world isn’t ending,” Sapnap rolled his eyes, getting himself comfortable in his row of seats again. “I’m a teenager, not blind, even the zombies can tell you want to bone him, Dream.”

Dream chewed his lip under his bandana, burying his face in his hands as he let out a muffled scream. “You don’t get it, Sap, you’re still only a kid you don’t understand these types of things, ok? Please stay out of it, we need to keep the awkwardness to a minimum until there is no risk of fucking death, yeah?”

“I’m not dim,” Sapnap droned, face unamused as he pointed to the roof. “If you care so much about keeping things smooth then go talk to him, dude, I’ll keep an eye down here.”

Dream thought it over in his head before he took a single step away, face uneasy as he turned to the fire escape.

“Go get ‘em, tiger,” Sapnap urged and if Dream gave any more of a shit he would have glared at him but his nerves were too fried for him to, his lungs working overtime as his diaphragm crumbled under the pressure, sinking lower and lower into his stomach as the butterflies rammed into his tissue, begging to escape.

So he did the next best thing and flashed the youngest a middle finger before he walked out to the fire escape, the cold air of the approaching evening hitting his face as he started to climb the winding steps onto the flat roof of the abandoned cinema. 

George was at the far end, legs swinging over the edge of the concrete as he stared across the ruined landscape of his hometown, face unreadable as his gun lay behind him in a surprising moment of vulnerability.

Dream was unsure if George knew he was there so he remained quiet as he crept up to the edge, chewing on his lip until he could taste the startling tang of iron in his mouth as he carefully set himself down next to George, not close enough to touch but within arms’ reach.

“It’s nice up here,” Dream hummed, running his eyes along the horizon as the sun started to dip behind the sea of forgotten buildings. “I forgot how pretty the stars could be.”

George flinched slightly at his interruption before he calmed down, shoulders drooping like flowers in winter as he leant back on his palms, head tilted to the sky as Dream mirrored his actions. “Yeah, I guess they are nice,” he agreed quietly. “You can actually see them now, normally there were too many lights to see shit.”

It was true, the stars were bright in the sky, each of them winking with their own personality and story as they drew patterns and pictures across the galaxy, not a thing to disrupt them or outshine their beauty.

“It’s weird isn’t it?” Dream hummed, eyes flicking between the dozens of stars like stations on the radio. “That nothing changed for them, that the stars and the universe and the Earth just kept doing their thing while our entire world fell apart.”

George seemed to ponder Dream’s philosophy with more thought than the latter expected, face serene as he considered the starry night. “I guess it is,” he agreed softly, slowly turning to stare at Dream’s side profile as he obliviously continued to observe the stars. “But then again, they don’t get to experience life the way we do, they just exist and eat themselves until they explode, we get to live.”

Dream’s brow furrowed in confusion as he turned to meet George’s soul-deep gaze, swallowing the flurry of heat that tried to rush to his face under the man’s stare. “Care to elaborate on that existential claim to life?” he tried to joke but George’s stare had yet to subside.

“They don’t get to socialise, make friends or start families, they don’t get to try new things and excel at them and they don’t get to make mistakes over and over again, they don’t get to be human,” George stressed and Dream couldn’t help but be engrossed.

“And what does it mean to be human, George?” Dream whispered as George’s stare wavered, soft eyes trailing back to look at the somewhat forgotten stars.

“I don’t know,” George admitted. “Sometimes it feels like the stars know more than I do about what it means to be human.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Dream hummed, a small smile twitching under his bandana as he urged George to look back at him. “You’re human if ever I saw one, especially when we’re surrounded by literal fucking zombies.”

“I’ve done bad things, stranger,” George whispered, holding onto the confession like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to offer it. “I don’t think I deserve to be called human anymore.”

“None of us are fucking angels,” Dream insisted. “Fucking up and doing bad things is what makes us all human! By whatever screwed up standards we have now, I’d even consider you one of the better humans,” he hummed, heart growing warm as he watched George’s lips quirk up in a smile.

The shame of catching himself looking at George’s lips fizzled out within moments as George fully turned himself where he sat to eat Dream alive with his stare, small body drowning in the incriminating, blood-stained green fabric of Dream’s hoodie.

“I wanna say you’re not too bad of a human yourself,” George whispered, only the stars listening to their silent conversation. “But it’s hard to judge with your face covered, stranger.”

“Yeah?” Dream chirped, an unusual flare of confidence surging through him as he leaned closer to the older, eyes still persistently staring at George’s quivering lips as the man’s own eyes shone with hesitance, dipping towards the cloth of the bandana that hid Dream’s lips from view. “Why don’t you do something about it then?”

Time neglected to move, the wind pausing in the middle of one of its gusts as the stars dimmed above them, the entire world waiting for either of the men to make a move after Dream’s bold statement. Part of him regretted it, his chest burning with embarrassment, but it was drowned out by the buzzing in his ears as the surroundings blurred around the pair, everything except for George fading out of focus as George breathed on the thin cloth separating them, the fabric dancing in the exhale and it felt like Dream was moving through syrup as his fingers twitched, reaching out with a gentle palm to hold George’s hand in his own.

He guided it to his face, green eyes kind as George went pale with nerves, fingers trembling as he clutched the fabric in his fist, hand cupping Dream’s covered cheek as his fingers buried themselves in Dream’s messy hair, moving towards the knot with purpose.

If Dream closed his eyes he could imagine the feeling of the wind against his lips as he stared entirely at George, he could feel the stare on his naked face, the itch of the stubble he can’t shave and the dull lumps from the acne that dusted his cheeks in the sea of freckles that painted his face like a messy canvas.

He could imagine the soft look on George’s face, could feel the heat of the man’s breath on his uncovered face and if he betrayed himself and let the butterflies fly free he could taste the muted sweetness of George’s lips against his own, the soft skin meshing with his in a beautiful act of vulnerability as they laughed at their shared inexperience with only the stars as their witness.

But when Dream opened his eyes, when he came back to the real world of monsters that did no favours for him, George’s hands never worked their way through the knot and the innocent sparkle of the stars was snuffed out by the resounding bang of a gun from inside the cinema.

Chapter Text

George was already on his feet, gun recollected and loaded in his hand before Dream had even mustered the willpower to smother the suffocating warmth in his chest enough to stand up.

“What the fuck’s going on?” He breathed, eventually wobbling to his feet as George darted for the fire escape.

“Sapnap,” the man choked and Dream felt his blood run cold, shaking himself off as he quickly followed the elder, all but falling down the clanging metal steps as his hand burned against the cold metal railing that supported him.

No more conversation was shared and Dream regretfully had to act like the moment before hadn’t happened, otherwise, he was no better than dead with his hammering heart and sweaty palms worthy of a crushing high school kid.

George seemed to have already moved past it, soft eyes hardened with the possibility of bloodshed and once gentle lips pulled back with determination and the ability to kill.

It was much easier and quicker to descend the fire escape and only a minute later Dream was flanking George with his axe wielded at his hip as George pressed an ear to the door of the fire escape.

“There’s people in there,” he whispered, fingers tight around the gun as he looked back at his peer, nodding at the axe. “Your gun, where is it?”

“In there,” Dream muttered bluntly and George swore before shrugging, motioning for Dream to follow as he barged through the door into the dimly lit screen room.

Sapnap was pressed against the back wall, gun at the ready as he fired another shot at the group of people taunting him as they ascended the stairs. 

If the murky blood that dripped from their mouths wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the bullets that clattered to the floor like metallic rain as the bullet wounds Sapnap had provided stitched themselves together with inhuman speed certainly made the situation clear.

They were stuck and surrounded by zombies, and they were outnumbered.

“You fucking took your time!” Sapnap yelled down to the pair, shooting another monster in the face which fell backwards and tumbled down the stairs, buying himself a few more precious moments. “I was wondering if you didn’t want to come to our little get-together!”

“Give us a minute, Sap,” George hissed and Dream felt the hairs on his neck prickle with alertness as several zombies took notice of them, bodies turning as they started to approach with steadily building speed. “We have a few guests of our own!”

The creatures charged with inhuman screeches, eyes wild and bloodshot with unhinged jaws that their healing couldn’t quite correct as they swung for George who quickly shot them through the throat and if Dream had spent a second longer in awe of the accuracy he would have had his own throat torn out by the zombie that sprung at him from behind.

He spun to meet it, axe wielded with confidence as he drove it through the thing’s arm, severing it as it fell to the floor with a yell, muddy puddles of blood leaking from the gaping wound as it crawled with bared teeth to the disgusted Dream who slammed the handle into its skull before it could get any farther.

That would hopefully take enough time to heal so that it wouldn’t get up any time soon.

“Remember how you told us you could incapacitate these things?” George shouted over the chaos as a series of gunshots sounded from Sapnap who was still effectively holding his ground. “Now would be an amazing time to fucking do that, stranger!”

“I can’t,” Dream replied, frustrated at the situation as he pushed back another clawing monster with his axe, actively ignoring the thing’s childlike body as it stared back at him with something frighteningly human in its eyes. “Not with these ones!”

Dream ignored the angered screams of questions as he returned his focus to the monster before him.

The zombie let out a drawling noise, head tilting as it lunged for Dream again who kicked it away, feeling how its ribs caved in under the force he used and watching disgusted as the bones grotesquely popped back into place.

“Ow,” the thing pouted, something so manipulatively innocent about it. “I’m sorry, mister, I won’t do it again,” it said brokenly, eyes blinking slowly like the glassy balls of a porcelain doll.

“Yeah, I know you won’t,” Dream agreed, face twisting with a cringe as it pounced once more, jaw wide with blood-stained teeth flashing before him like sirens only for Dream to drive his knife that he pulled from its small scabbard into the back of its throat, yanking the blade through tissue and muscle to rip through the back of its mouth and slice cleanly through its neck, exposing its rotten œsophages to the outside as it collapsed with momentary death,

If only, that would have been a mercy to whichever kid that monster had corrupted.

“Hey, stranger! Can you help me out for a second?” George’s voice echoed around the cinema and Dream tugged his knife free and readjusted his grip on his axe as he looked over to see George struggling hand-to-hand with one of the creatures, two lying bleeding at his feet with their brains blown cleanly out of the backs of their heads. “I’m out of bullets and those things will only stay down for so long!”

Dream nodded, neglecting any verbal replies as he quickly glanced at Sapnap to see him still safe and untouched at the back wall, a vast majority of the hoard he had previously been facing having moved to the other two only to fail miserably.

Once next to George, Dream drove his axe into the zombie’s chest to dislodge it from the elder who thankfully moved away from the fight as Dream spun the blade inside the creature and watched with sickening pleasure as it gargled and fell to its knees, unable to keep up with the injuries. 

“My bag,” Dream panted, looking back at George as he tried to steady his breathing. “My guns are in there, fully loaded, go grab one.”

George nodded once, understanding the instructions as he darted away from Dream who pulled his axe free once more with a sturdy boot on the zombie’s chest to detach it from his weapon.

He watched blankly as thick globs of brown blood dripped from the blade, plastering against the floor and winding its way down his handle to seep into the cracks of the old wood.

The crowd had decreased by a considerable amount but he knew deep down that it wouldn’t stay that way for long; they needed to clear out the zombies that were left and run as far as they could before any of them recovered enough to resume the chase.

One more look at Sapnap revealed he had ploughed through all of his zombies except for one that seemed to be intelligent enough to dodge the bullets Sapnap was shakily shooting at it and as Dream turned to check on George his heart dropped from his chest.

One of the creatures had apprehended him and the man was stuck in a fight with it as he wrestled for the gun to shoot it away.

“Fuck,” Dream quietly swore, gathering himself on his shaky legs as he prepared to rush in and help only to freeze in horror as two shots were fired without order, the trigger having been squeezed amongst the struggle between George and the zombie.

And one of those bullets flew straight through the side of the zombie bothering Sapnap only to land in the shoulder of the teenager who gasped at the collision but managed to hold out long enough to shoot the recovering zombie in the throat.

That was right before he collapsed, a hand shakily reaching up to cup his wound that was almost immediately coated in a devilishly bright ruby colour.

George grunted as he heard the shots, assuming the worst but being unable to confirm his suspicions as he stared the smirking zombie in the eyes, a firm hand on its forehead to keep its face away from his as he tried not to vomit at the bony fingers that grabbed at him and his clothes. “Give me the gun, asshole,” he breathed, shuddering as the thing grunted in his face, eyes wild with bloodlust as it shakily shrugged with cracking bones.

“If you insist,” it croaked, surprisingly releasing its grip on the gun with such suddenness that George struggled to regain his balance; and he struggled long enough for the thing to lunge before George had the sense to shoot it, its teeth firmly lodging themselves in the man’s forearm that had been exposed as the oversized hoodie slipped upwards before it collapsed with a shattered skull and a steady stream of murky blood that further stained the already ruined green hoodie Dream had gifted him.

Amongst the fresh layer of blood and the older patches, the slowly bleeding bite was hidden from sight under the fabric, only a slight wince on George’s face betraying its presence.

Chapter Text

The serenity that washed through the cinema once all the zombies were taken care of was both everything they could have asked for and yet almost mocking as Dream caught his breath, eyeing the part-time corpses before rushing towards Sapnap to tug the boy into his lap, nudging his hands away from the wound to inspect just how bad the injury was.

And fuck, it wasn’t pretty in the slightest.

The bullet was still lodged in the muscle, blood pouring in a subdued stream without stop and Sapnap had turned a frighteningly white colour as beads of sweat started to dot across his hairline and neck, chest stuttering with its heavy huffs of breath.

“Now I’m badass too,” Sapnap wheezed, face twisting in pain as his shoulder jolted. “You can’t call me a kid anymore, Dream.”

“Sapnap,” Dream whispered, eyes damp as he held the teenager closer. “You are just a kid, fuck I should have done better to stop this.”

Maybe once Dream would have sworn at himself for being so soft, for actually having the gall to be reduced to tears over someone being shot but he wasn’t exactly that Dream anymore.

For the first time in a year, Dream thinks he could pull the bandana from his face and Clay would look back at him, not Dream.

And Clay cared for Sapnap, he cared about the kid living and he cared about getting to that damned safe haven with his friends, protecting them as he had protected himself, protecting them like he had failed to protect his family.

“You did enough,” Sapnap hummed, smile crooked as he jabbed a finger into the other’s chest. “You like, tore through one of those things’ throats with a knife, you’re the ultimate badass!”

“Sapnap, stop talking,” George suddenly snapped, rushing towards the pair and sending Dream an unreadable look as he pressed his weight onto the bullet wound, ignoring the strangled cry of pain from Sapnap. “You’re not hurt anywhere else, right?”

“I’m fine, Georgie, apart from your fat ass leaning on me,” Sapnap smiled drunkenly, eyelids fluttering as the white tint to his skin started to border a pale green. “You think I can’t handle a bullet?”

“No, no I don’t,” George huffed, moving away from the limp Sapnap with bloodstained hands and a furrowed brow. “Stranger, get up, can you carry him?”

Dream cocked an eyebrow. “Only if you carry my bag.”

“Done,” George agreed with no hesitation, jumping to his feet and storming towards his bag to get the bullets that he quickly inserted into his gun. “We need to get moving or else he’s going to die and after that, he’s up for the picking with the walking dead,” he warned, turning to look at Dream who was staring at him quizzically.

“Where are we going?” Dream asked and Sapnap tiredly nodded along in agreement.

“To see an old friend of mine,” George replied vaguely, lips downturned as he heaved all of their bags onto his back, that much to Dream’s surprise, he could carry with ease. “He can help Sap.”

“You have friends?” Dream couldn’t help but joke, swallowing his worry for the still bleeding Sapnap who slumped against him as he picked him up.

“Had friends,” George corrected. “We’re not exactly on the best terms anymore.” He explained, making Dream wait as he shoved one of their spare shirts between Sapnap and the taller man’s back to keep even a small amount of pressure on the hole.

“But he’ll help Sapnap?” Dream pushed, settling the teen’s legs around his waist as he clasped his hands around his neck, keeping himself steady and ignoring the damp feeling of blood seeping onto his skin from the hole in Sapnap’s shoulder that had leaked around the shirt.

“I hope,” George confessed quietly and Dream felt his heart tug at the genuine sound of helplessness in his voice. “I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t get him to the haven.”

“I’ll be fine,” Sapnap slurred against Dream’s neck, nose twitching as the bandana itched against his face. “I’m badass.”

“The biggest badass,” Dream agreed. “But even the biggest badasses need to shut up and rest.”

“Aye aye captain,” Sapnap nodded and he quickly droned into silence as Dream followed George out of the cinema, the dark of the night burning into his retinas as they started to walk through the abandoned streets.

There was a heavy silence hanging over the trio, the two eldest stewing in confusion as to how to approach their confrontation on the roof. Dream’s stomach was doing backflips even at the slightest thought of George’s fingers tangling themselves in the knot of his face covering, lips ghosting closer and closer to his own.

He cleared his throat to stunt the traitorous thoughts, seeing George’s tense shoulders and knowing that now was not the time to bring up whatever spark of weakness that had introduced itself between them.

So instead he tried his best to poke at the dwindling flames of conversation.

“This friend, not-friend, whoever the fuck he is, where is he?” Dream muttered, readjusting his grip on the dozing Sapnap clinging to his back like a panda. “Cause I’m not sure how far he can go before he bleeds out.”

“A day at most, hopefully, half a day,” George shrugged. “He should still be in town, as long as he didn’t move after I left.”

“You’re not even sure he’s still here?” Dream asked tone shrill as his eyes went wide. “George, we can’t risk that!”

“It’s the best I can do, ok?” George snapped and while Dream wanted to be angry at the attitude he understood the stress. “I fucked up with my old friends and I’m not gonna let this new one fucking die.”

“Look, I get it,” Dream promised softly, feeling Sapnap slump further and further into his body, his weight becoming heavier and his legs slipping from Dream’s waist. “But we need to rest for the night before we go to your friend.”

“We can’t,” George tried to argue but Dream quickly shut him down.

“No, we need to, he won’t make it through the night unless we stop to treat it even a little,” Dream ordered. “Do you care about him, George? I get it if you’re still wary of me but do you give even the slightest shit about Sapnap?”

George stopped walking, mouth puckered like he’d sucked on a lemon as Dream’s weighted words dragged him down, his face twisted in agony as he kept the bags high on his shoulder, the bloodstained hoodie he had yet to remove cocooning him.

There was something Dream could only describe as guilt swimming in his downturned eyes as he hugged his arms close to his chest like a defence position and Dream momentarily felt bad for asking such a question but he pushed it down.

George actually seemed to be considering an answer, something he never would have usually done and Dream would be damned if he stopped such progress.

“I never wanted to care,” George whispered, voice fragile and barely reaching Dream’s eager ears. “My plan was to get the kid to the haven and never look at him again, I had my own life to live and my own plans to follow through with and I’d already sacrificed so much to get them, I wasn’t about to let some sick teenager stop me,” he admitted and Dream was able to understand the context.

George had lost whatever friends and family he had for whatever goal he was shooting for; of course, he was reluctant to give a shit about strangers.

“So what happened?” Dream asked, inching closer to the elder as Sapnap sleepily groaned into his shoulder. “What changed?”

“We met you,” George shrugged. “I knew Sapnap was bubbly but when we started travelling with you I was able to see a whole new side of him and seeing him be so carefree and human, fuck, it reminded me of how I used to be,” George looked to the ground, hand clasped tightly around his forearm that he kept hugged around his stomach protectively. “I saw myself in him and I wanted to be the person I never had, you know?”

Dream nodded sincerely.

He had always thought the same of his little sister.

“I’ve been an asshole for the longest time and I’ve done things you’d never believe and the first person I ever truly cared for left me over it and when you two actually stayed, despite me being snarky and cruel and cold, I think that’s when I knew I couldn’t really keep you as far from myself as I wanted.”

Dream wanted to pull the man into a hug, he wanted to hold him close and tell him that he got it, that he too was apprehensive towards people after the shit he had witnessed and that Sapnap and George had single-handedly crumbled the walls he had fortified in his self-exile. He wanted to tell him how George had stormed through his heart with his cold stares and soft eyes and that for the first time in his life, Dream thought he had found someone he wouldn’t mind being with.

He didn’t and George continued to speak.

“I used to just care about if you were dead or not, now I care about the fact you’re alive.”

Dream let those words settle and he hoped George could see his smile through the way his eyes creased.

“If that’s the case then you know as well as I do that we need to stop for the night,” Dream hummed and George flinched, holding himself tighter within the warm prison of the dirty, green hoodie. “I can treat Sapnap as best as I can and we can leave at the first fucking crack of dawn if it makes you feel any better?”

A mere moment later and George was nodding in agreement. “My old house,” George spoke through clenched teeth. “It’s near here.”

Dream could tell that the idea of returning there was hurtful to the man so he could only send a sympathetic look as George waved him along, hurrying down the street they were collected in with Sapnap’s now burning body bouncing on Dream’s back.

The house was unassuming but Dream supposed there was no reason for it not to be; its front garden was overrun with weeds, flower beds trampled and the fence around the plot of land was torn down and battered across the street. Blood stained the concrete of the driveway and the door to the garage hung open on its rusted hinges but George didn’t appear to look any less fond of the place.

But then again, he did grow up here.

Dream found himself curious as to what George’s childhood bedroom looked like as the man crept across the driveway, peeping into the front door that was almost comically still shut like the family had simply settled in for bed and locked their doors like any normal group of people would.

Except the door swung open when George pushed against it and Dream tried his best to ignore the sharp intake of breath from him as he reasserted his grip on Sapnap’s slipping legs.

“Welcome to my humble abode,” George snarked, arms wide as he shrugged the bags onto the floor, rolling his aching shoulders and wincing at the sharp movements. “Would you care for something to drink?”

“Wow, amazing hospitality,” Dream hummed, scanning the abandoned living room they were now standing in, the front door swinging shut behind them as Dream hunted for the best place to lay Sapnap down. “Some vin, garçon,” Dream grinned, a horrendous French accent coating his words as he manœuvered to the dusty sofa where he finally sat Sapnap on.

“Ah, tu parles français?" George bounced back easily, making quick work of floating around the open room to firmly lock any windows and tightly close the blinds and curtains, leaving them in thicker darkness than before.

“Uh,” Dream stammered, severely taken aback by how easily George had quipped in French and found that the short few years of high school French he had taken were failing him tremendously when put to the test. “Oui?”

George laughed at his struggle, rusting through cupboards and drawers in the background as Dream squinted at the damage to Sapnap’s shoulder, biting his lip at the large amounts of sweat running from the teen’s hairline and the worrying amount of blood seeping its way into the sofa he was lying on.  

“I’m assuming that’s a no,” George smirked as he closed the final drawer he was rusting through, a flashlight blinking to life in his hand as he returned to the sofa to shine the light on the wound.

“What gave it away?” Dream murmured, choosing to instead dig through his bag to produce the same battered first-aid box he had taken out during his first encounter with his two partners. The bandages he had given Sapnap still hung ratty and worn from his almost certainly healed hand.

“Maybe the fact I’m fluent and you sounded like a babbling toddler,” George taunted, also reaching into Dream’s bag to pull out a water bottle, eyeing the liquid forlornly before using it to wash away as much blood and grime from the wound as possible once Dream tore away the clothes covering it.

“You’re fluent?” Dream continued the conversation, lifting Sapnap as much as he could to check for an exit wound only to swear when he found none. The bullet was still inside the kid and neither of them had the skills to take it out.

Hopefully, George’s friend would be of aid.

“Yeah, I needed to be for work. It’s not the only language either,” George shrugged, cringing when he noticed the conclusion Dream had drawn. “Fuck, that’s not good, stranger.”

“Really, George?” Dream deadpanned. “I’d consider this the best possible outcome,” he drawled, tone dripping with thick sarcasm as he unravelled bundles of bandages from the first aid kit, spraying antiseptic onto a piece of gauze that he pressed to Sapnap’s shoulder, eyes apologetic as the teenager screeched in his unconscious state at the sudden pain. “And what the fuck did you work as? What do you need French for if we’re not in France?”

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to tell personal things to strangers?” George spat, wrapping the bandages tight around Sapnap’s limp shoulder. “It might be news to you but this is not the fucking time for small talk.”

Dream rolled his eyes, swallowing his blatant annoyance to place the entirety of his focus back onto Sapnap, wiping sweat away from his red, tear-stained face only to realise very quickly that a fever was building under his skin. “Alright, take the stick out of your ass and get a towel and any water we have left,” he instructed with a bite, butterflies dormant as Sapnap’s health took top priority above his petty crush. “We need to break his fever before we go anywhere.”

“All the water is in your bag and we don’t have any fucking towels,” George hissed, bumping into Dream’s shoulder as he set his own palm against Sapnap’s burning skin. “Fuck, do you have anything else we can use?”

Dream cursed under his breath, screwing his eyes shut in frustration as he nodded. “Yeah, yeah whatever, I do, go get the water,” he instructed, watching George duck towards the bags as he reached for the knot of his bandana, taking a deep breath of anticipation as the cold air of George’s house brushed against his bare face.

He could see George freeze when he turned back around and Dream had to quickly exercise his facial muscles that had all but gone slack after spending so much time covered; he actually needed to control his expressions now, no use giving George any more ammunition to use against him.

And yet it seemed like he was going to have material to throw at George for months with how much the man was gawking at his face, eyes wide and cheeks an incriminating pinkish tint as Dream chewed on the inside of his cheek, taking the water from George’s pliant hand before it fell to the floor and soaking the fabric of his bandana with it.

George continued to watch him in stupefied silence as Dream pressed the now sopping wet bandana to Sapnap’s burning forehead, moving it across the expanse of his head as he sat under the scrutinous stare of the elder.

“Your face, stranger,” George gaped and Dream shrugged.

“Yeah? Is there something on it, I’ve no mirror to check,” Dream replied nonchalantly, skin burning with its visibility as he tried to keep his raging emotions in check.

George was still in a state of disbelief as Dream finally built the courage to turn and look him in the eye, the younger’s lips involuntarily twitching into an inappropriate smile as George’s eyes unashamedly explored the canvas of his face.

“No, nothing on your face,” George stammered and Dream couldn't contain his laughs.

“It’s just a lot more handsome than you were expecting?” Dream teased before his smile dropped, his stomach turning itself inside-out as George nodded.

George fucking nodded in agreement.

“I guess I can’t technically call you stranger anymore,” George said, voice so quiet and still to not shatter the atmosphere he had frozen around them with a mere nod of his head, his curls innocently bouncing as if Deram’s entire reality wasn’t collapsing in on itself.

“Is it gonna stop you?” Dream asked fondly and his smile flickered back to life as George laughed faintly, proudly proclaiming a ‘nope’ with a prominent pop to his P.

Dream forced his attention to Sapnap one more time, dabbing the damp bandana back across his brow before leaving it to settle on the centre of his forehead and moving away from the limp, unmoving body.

“Hey, stranger?” George asked suddenly, voice soft but no less firm than usual. “Why couldn’t you kill those creatures back there? I thought you knew how to keep them down?”

Dream took a shuddering breath. “It’s complicated, George, I need to know how they died to be able to do anything,” he explained vaguely, shrugging his shoulders as he flipped the bandana over on Sapnap’s forehead. “If you can get a solid shot on the place that killed them the virus can’t regenerate the body, since you blasted its origin, ya know?”

George seemed taken aback, mouthing hanging open in a slight O shape as he listened to the tactic Dream was presenting. “That seems like killing them,” George laughed in shock.

“Eh,” Dream semi-disagreed. “They’re still alive, or whatever it is those zombies are, but it’s the next best thing to killing them I guess.”

Sapnap interrupted them with a sleep groan, eyes twitching behind his lids as his breathing started to pick up, head lolling across the sofa with only Dream’s palm keeping the wet bandana pressed against him.

“There’s not much more we can do for him, is there?” Dream mused, looking behind him to George who was hyper-focused on the rushed knot and folds of the bandages. It wouldn’t have been a shock to learn he was burying himself in the technicalities to hide from the flurry of emotions he had upturned.

“Unless you’re confident to carry out surgery, I’d say no,” George sighed and silence fell amongst them as they both watched the slow rise and fall of Sapnap’s chest.

It was haunting to see him so weak and broken down, Dream realised. He knew the kid had been in hospital when the outbreak first started and now here he was again, bedridden and vulnerable and Dream hated that he was being forced through something so traumatic at such a young age.

He never could have imagined being shot at sixteen, forget being stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse worthy of movies.

And yet, Sapnap hadn’t complained about his situation, outright grinning at his bullet wound at the prospect of being a badass and it stung. It stung so deeply that he was so ok with the world crumbling around him and it hurt that Dream had to watch him adapt, leaving behind any semblance of humanity or chance of a normal childhood to do something as simple as survive.

Sapnap should be worrying about his love life, who he’d be taking to prom and what to study for his upcoming calculus exam, not which place he could safely sleep in at night and when a zombie might next spring at him.

“I’ll kill them,” Dream decided out loud, George turning to look at him with a raised brow in confusion. “The people that started all of this, I'll kill them.”

George paused, face downtrodden and eyes dark before he chewed on his raw lip, meeting Dream’s eyes with his usual cold stare.

And for the second time that night, he nodded to Dream’s words, only the second time the blond couldn’t help but notice the clear apprehension and worry that thawed the frozen look George was trying so hard to uphold.



A day passed before Sapnap’s eyes blearily blinked open again, his fever still burning through his body with relentless determination, purging whatever hope Dream and George had of moving on any time soon.

The kid was far from lucid, eyes twitching behind his eyelids and body erupting into violent spasms at random points as the seconds ticked by. It was terrifying but Dream swallowed his fear to play bed-nurse, something George wanted to find amusement in but was unable to as he too busied himself over Sapnap’s health.

“This is taking too long,” George muttered in the early morning, a few hours after Sapnap’s first dazed awakening. “We need to go, whether he’s conscious or not.”

“No,” Dream insisted, heart hammering with the neverending nerves as Sapnap lay unresponsive beneath him. “He’s not well, George. A day more, we can wait a day more, please.”

George was clearly unhappy, lips downturned, shoulders tense and hair haggard over his eyes, his once healthy-looking curls looking like dejected lumps of hay that could do nothing more than tangle themselves in each other. “We need to set up a schedule, someone needs to watch him at all times,” George decided. “If we’re staying here any longer we need to be a lot more fucking careful than we are right now.”

Dream nodded in agreement.

That was reasonable.

“I’ll take first watch then,” he offered and George hesitated, eyes flitting to Sapnap before he sighed, shrugging and slumping his way to the nest of blankets and sleeping bags they had piled in the corner of the living room, throwing himself into the middle of it with enough dramatics to put a theatre kid to shame.

Dream huffed out a singular laugh before his stomach started to feel heavy, heart aching and nerves on fire as he watched the slow rise and fall of Sapnap’s chest like a hawk ready to hunt.

A day more and he would be ok.

It was only a few hours into Dream’s watch when it happened; George had long since fallen asleep which in itself was surprising due to his clear apprehension and for the most part, Sapnap had remained in a steady condition, the damp cloth drying out in regular intervals as it battled the burning heat on the kid’s brow.

Dream’s fatigue was starting to make itself known and he squeezed himself around the torso as he leaned his weight against the old sofa Sapnap was still nestled on, sight bleary and head pounding from exhaustion as he debated on an appropriate time to wake up George.

And if he had slipped into sleep any further he would have missed it, the soothing, reassuring rhythm of Sapnap’s breathing was disrupted, his chest faltering in its regular rise and fall.

Sapnap had stopped breathing.

Chapter Text

Dream had spent so many months alone in silence, never daring to speak, forgetting about raising it by numerous decibels, so for the mere sight of Sapnap’s still chest to reduce him to screams of worry, the fear must have been suffocating.

He threw himself towards the kid’s body, the scuffle managing to wake up George who blinked his groggy eyes open through the crusted sleep clinging to his lids. There was an extended moment of pure panic as Dream gripped Sapnap’s biceps, chest heaving with the beginnings of what could only be a panic attack as George’s confused grunts faded into a buzzing in the background.

Not moving, chest not moving, he wasn’t breathing, Sapnap wasn’t fucking breathing, needs to breathe, he’ll die if he won’t breathe, make him breathe, make him, make him-

“Dream!” George’s panicked voice shattered the fog engulfing his fizzled mind, hands shaking Dream’s stupefied body that was awkwardly bent over Sapnap’s broken body. “Dream, fuck, snap out of it, you dickhead!”

Dream felt like he was swimming through syrup, every slight movement of his limbs lagging by a noticeable amount as he watched the world around him through a frosted screen that couldn’t quite distinguish what was happening.

He could see George in front of him, eyes shining with worry before he gave up and shoved Dream to the side who could only sway like a drunkard at sea as he clung to the sofa to remain upright.

He watched the man place an ear to Sapnap’s still unmoving chest, lips moving in apparent silence to form something Dream could only guess to be stings of curses as he threaded his fingers together, Dream’s brow furrowing in confusion as George began pressing with the entirety of his weight onto Sapnap’s chest in a steady beat.

CPR, of course, it was fucking CPR.

Dream released a shaky breath, sagging against the sofa as George kept up with the compressions, face twisted in concentration as both his and Sapnap’s body jerked with the force.

He prayed none of Sapnap’s ribs would crack under the pressure.

It was difficult to watch as George grunted with exhaustion, Dream’s arms too heavy to lift for him to even debate helping as Sapnap sunk into the sofa only to spring back up again with mock life as George tried to push the very essence of it back into his soul over and over and over and over and over again.

And then Sapnap drew in the deepest breath Dream had ever heard, eyes flying open with such ferocity it was a wonder they remained in his skull as his hand reached out and tightly grasped George’s wrist that had paused over his chest.

“Fuck, man. I’m alive, you can chill,” he wheezed out and Dream only had the strength to let out a subdued cry of relief before he slumped into the side of the sofa, eyes fluttering shut with fatigue as his stress morphed into exhaustion that pulled him quickly into the deep abyss of sleep.

 

When Dream’s body finally had the sense to wake up he was met with the sight of Sapnap passed out on the sofa, tongue lolling from his mouth almost comically; the only thing keeping Dream from laughing at the image was the fact the kid had been at Death’s door only hours earlier and the image of his still chest was still far too fresh in the front of Dream’s mind.

“You good, stranger?” George’s voice suddenly chirped and Dream flinched slightly as he turned, rubbing at the tense muscles in his neck that had wound themselves up from his awkward sleeping position. “You had a pretty rough panic attack earlier.”

Dream’s head throbbed in memory, his brow stitching itself together as he hissed, shooting George a rushed and clearly forced grin with a shaky thumbs-up. “Just dandy,” he croaked, gnawing his lip in discomfort as he pressed especially hard on a twisted kink in the back of his neck. “How long was I out?”

“A few hours maybe,” George shrugged. “Sapnap was worried about you.”

Dream hummed, glancing back at Sapnap who was muttering to himself in his sleepy state, eyes flitting madly behind his closed eyelids. He must be dreaming about something.

“He was?” Dream queried, letting his sight linger on the teenager for a moment later to reassure himself that he was ok. “Stupid idiot, he should be focusing on himself.”

“It’s Sapnap,” George argued softly. “He’d rather have his eyes clawed out than admit he’s sick,” his voice was almost fond. “Besides, his fever is breaking, as long as you’re feeling better we can start moving later today, I don’t wanna be here any longer.”

In place of a verbal reply in favour of his throbbing head, Dream nodded in silent agreement, chewing on the skin of his thumb as George busied himself with clearing away the mess they had made in the old living room, conversation seeming unnecessary as Dream thought back to the foggy memories of what was apparently his panic attack.

The last time he had one of those was when Clay failed a geometry exam in eighth grade. Dream didn’t allow himself the time to think let alone get so worked up on something so to find out Sapnap had reduced him to one was almost… comforting in a way.

He surprisingly didn’t hate himself for the reaction, even in the present, the sickly sight of a sleeping Sapnap unnerved him and the fact that the kid had stopped breathing, even if only for a few minutes, was perhaps more terrifying than the apocalypse unfolding just outside of the room they had hoarded themselves in.

To George's clear dismay after a few hours, Sapnap had still yet to wake up and his fever had once again started to burn ferociously. The kid was in discomfort, rolling awkwardly on his narrow sleeping spot on the sofa, Dream’s worried gaze and protective palm keeping him securely on the piece of furniture as George tugged at his roots in frustration.

“We can’t keep doing this,” he muttered, eyes wild as he clutched at Dream’s bicep. “He’s not getting any better and if we don’t just go and get the help we’re looking for he’s going to die regardless!”

“We can’t move him in this state,” Dream remained stubborn but he could feel the doubt grabbing at his heart and pulling shades of worry over his vision. “We’ll only make it worse.”

“Then we go without him,” George said surely, pointing frantically to the bags that were waiting packed for them in a nearby corner. “It’s a day's walk at most, we’ll be back within three!”

“He could die, George,” Dream hissed and while George seemed upset at the possibility, eyes watering with obvious worry, he shrugged, standing his ground with a twisted face and hands pulled taut into fists.

“If he dies here then at least we don’t die with him, if he dies with us we’re fucked by default, leaving him is the best option,” George reasoned. “We can get help to him without moving him and if he does die we’re not in the area to see the aftermath.”

Dream chewed on his lip, a now recurring habit that had left the taste of blood permanently ingrained on his taste buds and a dull stinging always buzzing through his lower lip that was cracked and abused from exposure. He knew George had a point but it still wasn’t right.

Sapnap could die without them here to look after him.

But he also could die without the medical help they so obviously could not provide for him.

“Fine,” he breathed, heart pulling at the idea as he backed away from the sofa, pulling numerous flasks of water and a few days worth of food from his bag that he set carefully next to the sleeping teenager as George nodded, shoulders still tense but with an air of hope dancing around him.

Hopefully, that hope could ignite Dream’s dwindling spark also.

And so after shaking Sapnap awake and explaining the situation to the barely lucid kid, they left, hurrying down the abandoned street with George in lead, eyes dark with determination as Dream closely flanked him, bags heavy with their supplies and hearts weighed down with guilt as to what might happen in their absence.

Perhaps it was better to not think about it, Dream decided, watching as George held his arms close to himself in silence, keeping whatever heat he could pull from the world in his bones as Dream prayed to the gods that had abandoned them that maybe they could perform one more miracle and show one more mercy.

The weight of Dream’s journal was suddenly incredibly noticeable, the imaginary crinkle of paper invading Dream’s brain with memories of his research stained in the blood of his parents and little sister.

He had already lost one sibling, he was not going to lose another in Sapnap.

Chapter Text

Despite everything that happened between them it was almost too easy to fall back into their usual banter after a few hours of walking that had left Dream feeling hopelessly bored and understimulated.

George was hating it, something that only spurred Dream on further knowing that somewhere beneath all the ice, waiting to be thawed, was a soft spot for him.

“George?” He cooed only a few minutes after George’s previous stern look and he preened at the sight of the elder’s shoulders drooping in disappointment. “Are we there yet?”

A classic.

“I’m advising you to shut the fuck up, stranger, before I make you,” George hissed over his shoulder, flashing a quick but deliberate middle finger as Dream smiled, feeling a lot more confident in himself knowing that seeing all his little quirks and expressions made George adorably too easy to crack.

“Stranger?” Dream continued to tease, tilting his head like a lost puppy. “Have I been demoted?”

“I don’t know what you’re even talking about anymore,” George sighed, shrugging off Dream’s words. “Now once again, kindly shut the fuck up.”

“You know what I’m talking about,” Dream purposefully ignored George’s request. “You called me Dream in the house, I remember it now, when I started to have that panic attack I heard you!” Dream pointed out, jogging a little to catch up with the other who had annoyedly picked up his walking pace, fingernails digging into his forearm in self-restraint with his lips downturned. “Come on, George, just admit you like me more than you want to, for fuck’s sake we almost kissed on that roof the other day!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” George reinstated, pausing his angered march to spin around to fully face Dream, jabbing a finger in the taller’s direction. “If you so much as say another word about the cinema or what happened with Sapnap I’ll shoot your tongue out of your damned mouth, do you get me?” He threatened darkly and Dream could tell from his rigid posture and trembling eyes that he was serious.

He didn’t want to admit that the blatant refusal to talk about what had happened between them had stung quite a bit.

This time Dream actually remained quiet, slinking behind George with a bowed head and trying his best to ignore how fatigued George seemed to be and how badly he wanted to ask if the older needed to stop for a break.

The dark-haired man was all but dragging his feet behind him, face unusually pale for the amount of exposure it must have had in the last year and every breath seemed to take effort which was especially odd considering George was far from unfit; his stamina was hard to rival and Dream had taken one too many sinful glances at the man’s back when he was changing and he could tell from the amount of muscle that something as mediocre as breathing should not be causing a problem.

But Dream was frankly too afraid to ask what was wrong, favouring the feeling of his tongue safely in his mouth and yet he felt no less anxious over his newfound brothers’ health.

Knowing Sapnap was lying shot in a house on his own in the middle of a fucking zombie plague was something that would keep him stubbornly awake for the few nights they would be away and seeing George clearly not handling everything well either was borderline torture.

Dream hated feeling so helpless in the world, his research useless and the people he finally learned to care for again were teetering on the edge of the same fate to his family all because he hadn’t done enough.

He still couldn’t kill those damned monsters, even when George and Sapnap needed him to.

A few hours later and his rambling thoughts of self-hatred and brooding were abruptly halted as George threw a hand up in a silent but clearly understood order to stop and be quiet and for the sake of Sapnap, Dream obeyed, feet still in the dirt they were treading through and hands hovering by his gun and axe as George investigated their surrounding area.

“This was the last place I knew they were,” he whispered, motioning slightly with his head to what Dream could only guess to be an old youth centre. “It should be easy enough to get in, the hard part will be finding my old friend without being caught.”

“Because you’re not on the best terms?” Dream echoed, recalling one of their previous conversations and George nodded cautiously. 

“That’s putting it lightly, stranger,” he admitted, his eyes distant behind the soft hue of his irises as if in deep thought. “I really fucked up with these people, especially this old friend of mine, I’ll be surprised if there’s not a hate group in there with a pyre waiting for me.”

“What the fuck did you do?” Dream breathed, shocked by the implications. 

Yes, George was cold and borderline cruel but Dream can’t imagine him doing something so hateful to have multiple people cheering for his death in a world where living is arguably worse.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” George spat and yeah, Dream got it. Their priority was Sapnap, not George’s twisted and shadowed history that Dream so desperately wanted to sink his teeth into and rip apart until it unravelled.

“Ok, ok, that’s fine,” Dream held his hands up in surrender and George huffed in annoyance that could be from multiple variables before he shook himself off and waved Dream to follow him as he crept towards the centre.

It was a fairly large building and the closer they got, Dream could distinguish murmurs of people, or what he prayed were people, within its walls. George seemed relieved at the noise so Dream placed his faith with the other man, smothering his sense of survival with a blanket of worry for Sapnap as George rushed towards a window suspended several feet off the ground that was ever so slightly cracked open.

The zombies would never think to climb up that high without a nearby route so the lack of caution as to it being open wasn’t really that surprising and Dream simply allowed himself to be thankful they had a way in as George silently instructed him to boost him up to their entrance.

With a minor pant of exertion, Dream pushed the elder high enough for him to slide the window fully open and wriggle inside, reaching out for the blond patiently waiting on the ground outside once he was fully in the building.

Dream jumped up and clasped his hand with George’s, ignoring the fluttery return of those fucking nuisance of butterflies, huffing and panting like a dog as he was pulled as quietly as possible through the window.

Inside the youth centre was hauntingly quiet, the murmur from earlier gone in its entirety and even though thick silence had become Dream’s normal, the lack of any noise was leaving a sick feeling in his gut as George began to navigate the halls, childrens’ drawings hanging in tatters from the cracking walls and plaster falling like snowflakes from the ceiling to land in piles of dust that had gathered like autumn leaves throughout the corridor.

George didn’t seem bothered, the only negative parts of his posture and expression coming from the things Dream had noticed before; the rest was a clear painting of confidence and determination mixed with stained water that had tainted the colour scheme ever so slightly in the shades of unknowing and regret.

Fuck, Dream hoped this old friend of George’s had any sort of heart after this long in the apocalypse.

They descended a set of stairs and suddenly Dream could hear the faint voices again, only not a soul was in sight on the ground level and Dream’s brow furrowed in confusion as he joined George at his side, the other still not looking nearly as bothered as Dream was feeling.

Dream was far too afraid to speak as George continued to walk, pushing through a large set of double doors that swung into an old, dusty and forgotten kitchen area with an unassuming door nestled in the corner, basement plastered across it in clear, bold lettering.

“Whatever you do,” George began, expression stern as he looked up at Dream, for once his eyes not flashing with momentary shock at the sight of the man’s face. “Don’t talk to anyone and keep your head down, I don’t want to know what will happen if I’m recognised.” He instructed and Dream nodded in understanding, wetting his dry lips and feeling the comforting sting of raw skin meeting the harsh air as George pushed the door open with his shoulder, head dropped and curls fanning over his forehead and eyes.

The second the door opened, pure unfiltered noise poured from the basement’s depths, bass thumping beneath their feet and loud chattering bouncing its way up the staircase.

It was a shock to Dream’s system to hear so many humans in one place after the year he had lived and it was an even bigger shock to hear that they seemed to be partying, not a care in the world outside of their bubble of music and conversation.

“Welcome to The Hive,” George crooned before ducking into the doorway, vaulting his way down the stairs with a sense of urgency surrounding him as Dream bounced after him, watching with a hint of fondness as George tugged the hood of Dream’s hoodie over his dark hair, the curls pressing against his skull under the weight of the clothing as the bloodstains danced in tandem with the fabric like a swimming pattern.

The wave of unbridled energy that washed over Dream was enough to knock the breath clean out of him and it took for George to actually grasp his wrist to keep him steady and pull him through the swarms of people huddled in groups and laughing loudly amongst each other, strobe lights flashing around them and burning Dream’s retinas even through his eyelids. The only word to explain it would be a rave but even that was questionable considering their circumstances.

Dream kept his head down as instructed but no one seemed to be paying them any attention anyway and even George began to loosen up as he glanced upwards through his curls and met Dream’s worried green eyes.

“We got lucky that they didn’t leave,” George spoke over the thundering music, his voice barely audible.

“What is this place?” Dream ignored George’s statement, too caught up in the party that raged around them and the shock that burned through him as George continued to tug him through the crowd.

“A group of people that gave up,” George shrugged, weaving past a couple who might as well have been attached to each other’s faces. “They decided that if any day could be their last then they were going to live every day like it was.”

Huh.

An interesting philosophy, Dream supposed.

“So you used to be a party animal?” Dream asked, an eyebrow raised in suspicion with a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth at even the idea of George with a solo cup in hand grinding against a stranger in the flashing lights with music thumping through his veins.

“Yeah, not quite,” George smirked before his face fell as he pressed closer to Dream, steering them towards a wall with urgency. “Someone is looking at me weird, we need to be more careful.”

Dream nodded, holding George close to hopefully persuade people to leave them alone to not disturb what Dream hoped liked an intimate moment. “So if you weren’t here to party yourself to death, why were you here?”

George’s eyes danced over Dream’s face that was now unreasonably close to his, a spark of something unrecognisable in his irises. “That old friend of mine, I worked with him here to try and find a way to end this virus,” George explained, a shiver wracking through him as a passing girl bumped into them, face painted with neon makeup with her pupils blown as wide as craters. “Hey, stranger, can you see a guy in the crowd, pink hair, super tall?”

Dream hummed in confusion but once George lightly shoved him to urge him on, Dream confusedly scanned the crowd, catching a glimpse in a back corner of the man George had described. “Yeah, yeah I see him, why?” Dream muttered just loud enough that the other could hear him in their proximity, Dream’s lips only millimetres away from brushing George’s pale cheek.

“Ok, ok you need to keep an eye on him, stranger. I can’t see him so I’m counting on you to make sure we don’t get our asses beat,” George said sternly and Dream nodded in affirmation.

“Yeah, don’t worry, Georgie, I can handle that,” Dream promised, breath hot as it mingled with George’s nervous pants. “You said you were working on a cure?”

“Mhm,” George confirmed nervously as he pressed a little closer to Dream, two clearly drunken girls slamming into the wall next to them, faces stuck in a moment of bliss as they dragged their mouths and teeth over every inch of the other’s bare skin. “That was the plan anyway, it obviously didn’t work out.”

“What happened?” Dream pressed, not fully looking at the other as he kept an eye on the zoo of a party unfolding around them. “I didn’t take you as one to give up.”

“I didn’t give up,” George insisted. “Our ideals just clashed but I didn’t let it stop me, he didn’t like that-“

“Fuck, George, that guy you told me to watch, is it a problem if he’s walking in our direction?” Dream interrupted, voice no more than a hiss as his eyes widened in panic, George stiffening like a board against him.

“Shit, are you joking me? Yes, stranger, that’s a big fucking problem!” George screamed in a whisper, feet shuffling against the alcohol stained floor as Dream tried to keep him steady. 

“Well then, let’s go,” Dream urged, pushing George away from the wall only for the latter to shake his head and dig his heels stubbornly into the ground.

“Are you an idiot?” He pounded a fist into Dream’s chest, the blow cushioned by the oversized hoodie sleeves folding over his hands. “That makes us stand out more!”

“He’s getting closer, George, what the fuck are we gonna do?” Dream’s panicked eyes met George, the two staring at each other in joint anxiety as the elder chewed so hard on his lip that Dream wouldn’t have been surprised to see it fall to the floor.

“Fuck, I’m sorry, stranger, just play along,” George shook his head in what could only be astonishment over what he was planning to do and Dream only managed the beginning of a ‘huh’ before George’s hands wound themselves into Dream’s shirt, forcefully tugging him closer and abolishing any distance between them.

There was no preparation and Dream let out a muffled cry of shock against George’s face as the latter’s hands desperately tried to keep him close as their amateur kiss continued with an air of awkwardness.

They were still against each other, lips unmoving as they simply stayed pressed together with their eyes scrunched closed before Dream took a shuddering breath and took George’s hands within his own, cupping his cheek and relaxing a little, urging George to do the same.

It took a moment before George did the same, lips pliant as Dream swiped his tongue across his bottom lip, humming in happiness as George let his mouth fall open. Dream made quick work of claiming every inch of the elder’s mouth as his own, George groaning in reciprocation as he sucked on Dream’s tongue in turn.

It was unexpected but Dream savoured every moment, skin growing flush against George’s body that was pressed impossibly close to his own, their bodies merging as one as they gasped for breath into each other’s mouths, lips wet with saliva and tingling with the taste of the other.

Though neither of them cared enough to check, the pink-haired man paused in confusion at the sight of them grabbing at each other before walking away, face tinted red with embarrassment.

And yet not one of them made moves to stop, hands pulling at the barriers of clothing as Dream’s face dropped to George’s slim neck, sucking at the skin and biting a trail up to the spot behind his ear, sucking on the lobe as George moaned, fingers carding through Dream’s rugged hair and pulling on the strands with excitement.

“I,” George whined, brushing the younger’s hair away from his forehead as Dream hummed against his neck, the vibrations dancing along his skin and setting his nerves on fire. “I think we’re all good now, stranger, you can stop.”

“Don’t wanna stop,” Dream murmured, face still burrowed against George. “Want you.”

“Dream,” George panted and the sound of his name falling from the man’s lips was enough to make Dream pause. He was actually lucid enough to know it was happening. “Dream, please, we can continue this later but we need to find my friend.”

“Your friend can wait,” Dream growled, nipping at George’s ear once more as the aforementioned groaned, pulling him away from his neck and pressing his lips back against Dream’s swollen and glistening ones.

He pulled away after a few more minutes, pressing his palm against Dream’s mouth with a knowing and yet still yearning look in his eye as Dream chased after his mouth like a baby to food. “No, this can wait you fucking idiot,” George insisted, the music loud around them and yet somehow leaving the two in their own isolated bubble. “We need to get back to Sapnap, remember?”

Dream pouted against George’s hand in disappointment but nodded in understanding; as long as he didn’t severely fuck up, George would hopefully still be willing to indulge him after Sapnap had the help he needed, even with his previous insistence that he wouldn’t.

George slowly pulled his hand away, biting back a smile at the exaggerated frown that was revealed underneath it as Dream quickly chased the hand that had muffled him to fold it in his own, rubbing a thumb over the soft skin of George’s knuckles as the latter’s eyes widened in shock, blush creeping up his neck to spread across his cheeks and burn behind the bruises slowly forming across his skin.

“You’re a clingy bastard,” George teased, dragging Dream away from the wall by the hand like a puppy on a lead and Dream grinned drunkenly at the accusation.

“And yet you’re not pulling away,” Dream shot back and George had nothing to say in return, palm hot against Dream’s in a comforting warmth that bloomed through their joint limb and thawed the frozen feelings George had stopped trying to reign in as harshly.

“Just make sure to keep up,” George replied instead, tugging Dream along further and trying his best to swallow a wince that Dream, despite the burn in his chest, figured was best to not question. This moment of tranquillity was fragile and Dream wanted to nurture it to the best of his ability.

As they walked the crowd began to thin out and George seemed to be walking with surety towards a storage closet, disappearing into the room behind the door and leaving the party as naught but a dull thump that pulsed through the walls.

What Dream had assumed to be a storage closet was actually a corridor that stretched on into darkness in seemingly infinite length with doors dotting either side along with the occasional person slumped on the floor surrounded in piles of their own vomit.

“Delightful,” Dream said with disgust, stepping over an unconscious teen as George made his way to a singular door, hand resting against the handle but not yet opening it, face set in a look of foreboding as his fingers flexed around the handle, clearly buying himself time.

Dream made no moves to rush him but it wouldn’t have mattered as George took a shuddering breath and made the final move, wrenching his wrist harshly only for the door to sound a soft click as it swung open.

Such a small repercussion for one thing that obviously took a lot from George.

Well, this was it. Either George’s old friend agreed to help them or Sapnap died, possibly with them along with him.

The room they then entered was nothing special, tables lined the perimeter of it with shelves hanging from nearly every wall, each surface coated in bottles and jars and scientific equipment that was meticulously kept. 

Any bare wall was plastered in papers and whiteboards, writing scribbled across them in chicken-scratch with chemical formulas melding into rushed diagrams.

It was like someone’s brain had exploded within the confines of the room, matter and memories staining every square inch of the place and managing to leave such a deep imprint of their personality whilst also revealing nothing at all about them.

“What is all this stuff?” Dream asked in awe, fingers ghosting above a wrinkled piece of paper fluttering against the busted AC cooling the area.

“The structure of the zombie virus,” a voice that was not fucking George replied and Dream’s eyes narrowed at the realisation of a stranger, hand shooting towards his gun in defence. “Ah, ah, ah,” the stranger tutted and Dream could hear George sharply inhale even with his back turned. “There’s no need for guns, yeah?”

Dream looked over his shoulder cautiously, meeting George’s eyes that were watering with an unknown emotion as he motioned slightly to the left, where once Dream turned in that direction he was met with the sight of a rugged man.

He was well into his twenties, face dripping with experience as his hair hung in clumps of static in front of his dark, and while not unkind, definitely displeased, eyes, a tell-tale sign of frantically brushed out curls with no care set aside to maintain them. A lab coat hung around him, the ends fanning behind him like a tail, the once stark white fabric stained with age and dust, the muted yellow of a sweater climbing his neck underneath it and casting a yellow glow onto the lens of his large, rounded glasses that perched on the crooked bridge of his nose like a bird on a tree branch.

“Wilbur,” George greeted, voice tangling itself in the expanse of his throat and coming out as a mere choke. “Long time no see, old friend.”

Chapter Text

Wilbur did not seem happy with the greeting, Dream realised sourly, the man’s face puckered as his hands flexed at his sides, his startling height seeming to expand in the small room and leaving Dream choking in his awkwardness as George nervously wet his lips at Wilbur’s silence.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Wilbur spat, eyes slowly narrowing into slits behind his glasses. “You know I don’t want to look at your face, you pretentious, backstabbing pig.”

George winced at the flurry of insults, holding his hands up in a show of peace as he sidestepped closer to Dream who was still stuck in a standstill, the gun heavy in his thigh holster at the quickly increasing threat of this so-called ‘old friend’.

“Look, Wilbur, I know we didn’t last see each other on the best of terms-“ George tried to reason only for Wilbur to stop him with a scoff.

“Really, George? Wasn’t the best of terms? Is that how you worded it?” Wilbur taunted, skulking forward with lips pulled back in a snarl. “I’d say what you did to me, what you did to everyone, is a lot worse than however you’re making it out to be in front of your new boy toy.”

Dream raised a brow at his sudden address, pointing at himself to ensure Wilbur was in fact referring to him as this supposed boy toy.

“He has nothing to do with this,” George let the comment sweep over him, protectively raising a hand in front of Dream that effectively did fuck all, but it was the thought that counted, Dream supposed. “I messed up, Wilbur, I get that,” he pressed, ignoring the second scoff that Wilbur supplied. “But please, we need your help.”

“You need my help?” He sneered, forcefully sliding his slipping wires glasses back up his nose as he stormed forwards. “After what you did? I’d rather throw myself to the zombies outside with a pretty little bow wrapped around my neck!”

“And I’m sure that would look lovely on you,” Dream butted in with a sly grin even as he sheepishly crept forward to join the heated reunion. “But this isn’t for George, it’s for our friend.”

“Like that makes it any better,” Wilbur laughed. “He’s George’s friend, the George that, may I remind you, ruined my damned life!”

“He’s just a kid, Wilbur,” George defended with a whisper and that seemed to crack through Wilbur’s exterior, though only for a moment before his face hardened once more.

“As if that ever mattered to you,” he accused with venom lacing his voice and George flinched, cringing under the scrutinous confusion of Dream. “My heart goes out to him but I’d rather die than help this scumbag again.”

“He’ll die if you don’t come, Wilbur, he’ll bleed out on a sofa with no one there with him and he’ll end up no better than those creatures you shoot down without a second glance,” George hissed, desperation growing increasingly clearer. “He’s sixteen and he has so much light in him and if you don’t get off your high horse and help him he won’t last the week.”

Wilbur huffed, eyes cold and hidden behind the glint of his lenses as he stared with such malice that Dream could feel it burning through his chest, tearing his very being apart.

He could only imagine how George was feeling, with him being the centre of the attack.

“What changed, George? Why are you choosing to give a shit about someone other than yourself now?” Wilbur asked, tone foreign as his posture relaxed.

“I’d tell you if I knew, Wilbur,” George admitted quietly and Dream had to bite back the fond smile nipping at his cheeks. “You’d understand if you’d spent the time I have with them.”

Wilbur seemed to contemplate the situation, nodding subtly as his fried hair dusted across his forehead. He was an interesting spectacle, surrounded by a hurricane of papers and equations in such stereotypically scientific garb that he almost looked normal, like his own mother had squeezed him out in a lab coat and handed him a test tube instead of a rattle.

Dream wondered what kind of science he used to work in, whether he was a chemist or an inventor. George had told him he could help Sapnap who had been shot so Dream was left to assume he came from a doctor background, in which case, if Dream’s meaningless high school graduation meant anything, he had taken a Hippocratic Oath.

Fortunately, that meant he would be duty-bound to help Sapnap, but in a world built on foundations of kill or be killed, where those you have to kill are startlingly human, it was difficult to know if Wilbur had any morals left to lean on.

“I’m not doing this for you,” Wilbur finally decided, a stern finger singling out George who seemed to deflate where he stood with relief. “I’m doing it for the kid.”

“Thank you, Wilbur,” George breathed and Dream finally let the smile that had been budding behind his lips bloom across his face as he laughed lightly.

“You’re a lifesaver,” Dream praised with an out-of-place grin. “In a literal sense.”

Wilbur nodded with an air of confusion as he moved to collect an array of possessions that were strewn with no order throughout the room.

“What’s wrong with the kid exactly?” He asked as he moved and George motioned for Dream to explain, much to Wilbur’s dismay that he made no moves to hide.

“He’s been shot in the shoulder, the bullet is still in there as well,” Dream relayed and Wilbur hummed in understanding.

“What kind of bullet are we talking about here?” Wilbur asked, not entirely interested in what he was doing.

“One from Dream’s gun,” George answered for him. “It was from a distance, a lot of blood and he stopped breathing for a little while.”

“Fuck, you could have started with that,” Wilbur hissed, hurrying towards Dream and holding out an expecting hand. “Give me the gun,” he ordered bluntly.

Dream’s eyes widened as he laughed at the prospect. “Why the fuck should I? Give me one reason to trust you enough to hand you my weapon?” Dream tilted his head. In a challenge.

“You have a point,” Wilbur shrugged, his hand unmoving. “With a name like Dream I can tell you’re not a trusting person to begin with.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Dream’s eyes narrowed in defence, fingers tightening around the comforting outline of his gun.

“It means that you must take me for an idiot if you thought I wouldn’t know that that’s not your real name,” Wilbur replied easily. “I take it George and the injured kid only know you as Dream too, why hide your real name in a world like this?”

“That’s none of your business,” Dream spat, hating the look forming across George’s face in slow realisation. “I trust myself, I trust George and I trust Sapnap, I sure as hell don’t trust you.”

Wilbur didn’t bother holding back his bark of laughter. "Let me give you some

advice, Dream," Wilbur sneered, stepping far closer than what Dream was comfortable with. "You seem smart, smart enough to have survived this long and smart enough to not trust me, so let me tell you something important. If you value your pathetic little life, you'll do well to not trust George.”

George did not protest, something that ignited an unknown emotion deep within Dream’s soul that burned with fury and left a charred trail of hatred around the image of Wilbur his mind had concocted.

“Well let me give you some advice, Wilbur,” Dream hissed, voice dripping with sarcasm on the looming syllables of the man’s name. “You should do well to keep the fuck out of my business, George has given me no reason to not trust him since I met him.”

“Then you haven’t met George,” Wilbur grinned smugly, lips pursed together with his eyes shining in their cockiness. “Now, stop with all your self-righteous crap, you said your friend was dying?”

“Yes, yes he is,” George confirmed, stepping completely in front of Dream who still towered behind him. “So let’s focus on that and not how much of an asshole I am, yeah?”

Wilbur shrugged, heaving a bag that Dream hadn’t even noticed had been collected onto his broad shoulders, scooping up something small from one of the nearby workbenches. “You act like that’s easy to do, asshole,” Wilbur snarked and George only dropped his gaze to the floor, hoodie sleeves pooling over his hands as he slouched behind Wilbur.

Dream acted without thinking, reaching out as he slinked behind George to grasp the man’s hand in his own, rubbing a thumb across the bony knuckles of George’s pale fist. To Dream’s surprise, George squeezed back just as tight.

They followed Wilbur silently, gripping each other’s hands like a lifeline as he led them back into the thunderous, drunken crowd, squeezing through groups of people with a look of indifference.

It was just as overwhelming as the first time, Dream’s head throbbing at the insufferable music and the putrid smell of alcohol wafting through the natural smell of damp in the youth centre basement. George looked back at him with a cocked brow as Dream exaggeratedly plugged his nose, pulling a small, silent amongst the chaos, giggle from the older man.

Wilbur made a dive for the centre of the rave, pulling a lanky blond teenage boy from the group, his gangly limbs flailing in annoyance as Wilbur began to spill directions to the kid.

George and Dream ignored the interaction, leaning against each other as they waited impatiently, the weight of Sapnap’s fate hanging over them like a blade about to fall on their necks. The former seemed to sway where he stood and Dream found himself panicking as he held George tighter, face twisted in concern.

“Hey, you alright?”

“Yeah,” George replied breathlessly. “Yeah, don’t worry, Dream, I’m ok,” he smiled reassuringly but Dream had seen more convincing UFO footage.

He said nothing, only holding George that bit closer, noticing Wilbur’s hurried return as he ushered them back out of the clumps of people, gaze set on the steps they had entered the basement via.

“Why are you leading the way?” Dream asked spitefully, tilting his head in wannabe innocence. “You don’t know where we left the kid.”

“No I don’t, do I?” Wilbur hummed in return, glancing over his shoulder with a smirk as he dug into his pocket to produce a jangling set of keys, decorated with the most obnoxious and cartoon key rings Dream had ever laid eyes on. “But I do know where my jeep is parked.”

Now, that was just fucking unheard of.

Since the virus had first taken hold it had become almost impossible to have a fully functional vehicle, whether it be from the slowly depleting fuel sources or the hyper-intelligent zombies that had taken to simply ripping any engine they could find apart.

So of course Wilbur had managed to keep his stuck-up mitts on a functioning jeep in this economy.

Dream’s displeased look managed to drown out the utter disbelief as George hummed in subdued interest.

“How do you keep that thing running out here?” George asked in what might have been genuine interest but more felt like an attempt to make pitiful conversation.

“I have connections,” Wilbur answered unhelpfully. “It’s a pain in the ass to keep topped up on fuel but it’s worth it.”

Conversation dwindled after Wilbur’s blunt replies and their quiet walk stretched on for a few more minutes as they reentered the main building of the youth centre, walking to its south and entering an impromptu made garage where an old, slightly chipped jeep, waited patiently for them.

“Well,” Wilbur threw his hands out in an introduction, a wry smile on his thin face as he pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Everybody climb in.”

Chapter Text

The car ride was…something.

Dream, all things considered, had forgotten what it was like to ride in a vehicle, bouncing in the back seat with George leaning against the opposite window, Wilbur humming a tune to himself with his fingers tight around the steering wheel in the front.

There had been one too many close calls, the rev of the engine attracting an array of unwanted attention that much to Dream’s surprise, Wilbur ruthlessly ran over, the jeep jerking under the unnatural speed bumps.

So much for that Hippocratic Oath.

George directed Wilbur with blunt, one-worded instructions and the second the latter recognised the area and worked out where they were heading he couldn’t hold back his laughter.

“Sentimental, are we?” He had asked tauntingly, snorting amusedly to himself when George had the bravery to throw him a middle finger. “Why this place, didn’t think you would have wanted to go back,” Wilbur queried, looking back at the pair in the over-head mirror, eyes glinting with an unknown emotion.

“I didn’t,” George huffed. “But it wasn’t like we had a wide selection, was it?”

No more words were shared as Wilbur drove smoothly through the deserted neighbourhood, carbon copies of run-down houses with busted down doors and smashed windows dotted along the landscape one after the other, the occasional distant screech echoing through the area like wailing sirens of death.

So long as one of those creatures weren’t Sapnap, Dream supposed he could appreciate the almost haunting beauty of it all.

Once they pulled into the driveway, which was so comically domestic all things considered, all sense of normalcy shattered as Wilbur grabbed his bag and ushered the pair from the jeep, George falling into step in the front as they managed to throw the door open while staying as quiet as they could, finding Sapnap white as a sheet hanging half off the sofa, eyes fluttering in fever as blood seeped through his bandages.

“Fuck,” Wilbur hissed, yanking his bag to his front to dig through it, stance taking on an air of confidence that left Dream knowing that this was his area of expertise. “You two, get out, I don’t care where but I don’t want any distractions, he’s in good hands, I can promise you he won’t die if I have anything to do with it.”

George had to take the initiative to pull Dream from the room, the latter’s lips pulled into a distrusting snarl as Wilbur wasted no time, peeling away the bandages that George and he had slaved over.

“Don’t even think about complaining,” George hissed, tugging Dream from the living room and ascending to the first floor via the creeping steps of the staircase, the walls yellowed and the carpet fraying. “He’s the best chance we have for Sapnap fucking living to see tomorrow and we’re lucky enough that he’s even choosing to help us in the first place.”

“That doesn’t mean I have to like him,” Dream grumbled, allowing George to drag him along like a kicked puppy along the hallway, George’s hand gentle around the taller’s forearm as he laughed lightly at the man’s complaints.

They stopped in front of a door, George smiling sheepishly as he eased the door open, guiding Dream inside and closing it softly behind them, a muted click thundering through the otherwise silent room as Dream investigated his surroundings, eyebrows furrowing as he took in the interior recognising a neatly made double bed tucked into a corner, a collection of movie posters hanging on the walls around it, some hanging off the chipping paint and several having dropped into crumpled heaps on the floor.

A desk dominated the far wall of the now supposed bedroom, the room’s sole window perched above it with thick blackout blinds coating the glass, not an ounce of natural light oozing from the outside, the fragments of light that could escape from downstairs and creep under the door frame being the only thing to illuminate the darkened room.

The desk was neat and orderly but Dream could see the bottled chaos tucked into stacks across its wooden surface, pages tumbling from the edges of folders and pencil sharpenings decorating the ridges of the furniture like a layer of dust.

“Is this your room?” Dream asked in shock, turning in his place to drag his eyes across every visible thing.

“Was my room,” George corrected with a stiff nod, dragging a hand along the untouched covers of his childhood bed. “I moved out when I landed an apprenticeship once I graduated high school.”

“An apprenticeship for the mysterious French-speaking job you won’t tell me about,” Dream asked lightheartedly, sifting through the papers at the top of the file and smiling at the rushed doodles and messy equations of old math homework that littered them.

“Precisely the one,” George confirmed with an airy laugh, throwing himself back onto the bed, the blankets creasing under his weight. “You’re learning.”

“I’m good at remembering things,” Dream smirked. “Like that kiss earlier.”

“Kiss?” George hummed, tilting his head on the bed to grin at Dream who was leaning back on the desk with his bottom lip between his teeth. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You don’t?” Dream asked with an exaggerated head tilt as George hummed in confirmation, the cheeky glint in his eye betraying his true thoughts. “Guess I need to jog your memory then.”

“I guess you do,” George grinned, sitting up on the bed and painstakingly spreading his legs apart as Dream stalked closer. “What are you waiting for, stranger?”

Those words were all it took for Dream to pounce, eyes as wild as a predator as he pinned George to the bed with firm hands, wasting no time before kissing him deeply and forgetting about any form of formalities in favour of swiping his tongue across George’s responsive lips to demand entry.

George gave it easily, hands straining under Dream’s grip with desperation to touch and feel every dip and part of Dream’s body that towered over him.

Nothing else mattered as they held each other, fears about Sapnap fading into dull hope as they worshipped each other. Hands pulled at hair and clothing alike as George’s head was thrown back in ecstasy, Dream’s wandering lips leaving flitting, airy kisses along his flush skin as one of his hands abandoned their grip on the elder’s wrist to migrate to George’s heaving stomach.

Dream traced patterns around the other’s belly button before he hooked his fingers under the damned hoodie that instigated everything, its faded green dye taunting Dream along to rip it off and make his mark on the naked canvas of George’s pale body.

But as he finally found the strength to pull his tingling lips away to focus on removing the item of clothing George shook his head frantically, tugging a hand free to curl it around Dream’s now paused hand as he breathed out brainless whispers of, “no.”

Dream hummed in confusion as George weakly tugged his hand away from the hoodie. “Not that, leave it on, please.”

“Do you still wanna, ya know?” Dream questioned softly, removing his hand to hold George’s like precious cargo. “Please tell me if you want to stop.”

“No, no,” George rambled, bucking upwards beneath Dream with their clothed dicks brushing ever so slightly together. “Keep going, I want it, stranger!”

“Want what, George?” Dream whispered, releasing George’s hand only to pin it back to the bed next to his other. “Tell me.”

“I want you, Dream!” The elder whined, baring his neck as he bucked his hips again and Dream couldn’t contain his bark of laughter.

“I think you might have lied about not having a crush on me,” he teased and George only whined again, his wrists flexing under Dream’s heavy ministrations. He responded by leaning over George further, nipping and sucking with his teeth along the expanse of George’s exposed neck, watching with sick pride as the marks blossomed into ruby red bruises that would persist for days to come.

The temperature in the room seemed to flare as Dream felt himself grow harder, George’s insistent grinding spurring him on like a horse at races. There was a collection of frustrated grunts and growls as Dream repositioned himself, stubbornly keeping George pinned beneath him as he clumsily tugged the other’s trousers down his hips, the clothing pooling at his ankles that George quickly disposed of, kicking them away like a hindrance as they fell into place with the forgotten movie posters.

Dream swallowed a moan as George’s boxers became the only thing hiding his dick from sight, the front of the fabric stained with his dripping precum as George cried for relief.

Dream wet his lips, shifting and releasing George momentarily to yank his trousers off, palming himself through his boxers which were also becoming increasingly damp as George watched through lidded eyes.

“Fuck, George,” he breathed, vision swimming as he looked down at George who had quickly taken advantage of his sudden freedom to rub himself through the fabric of his boxers. “Condoms? You must have kept condoms in here somewhere?”

It took George a moment to understand what Dream was asking of him before he painstakingly removed a hand from his clothed dick to point shakily at his desk. “Top drawer, fuck, hurry please.”

Dream jerkily nodded, stumbling away from the bed like a drunkard as he unceremoniously tore through the desk drawer, finding the box tucked at the back with half a dozen unopened condoms sitting inside.

Thank fuck, it would have been embarrassing to catch an STD in a zombie apocalypse. At least George can’t get pregnant.

Once Dream was back on the bed, George had already kicked his underwear away, half humping the wrinkled blankets bunched beneath him with high-pitched moans tumbling from his mouth that he was stubbornly keeping shut to avoid Wilbur hearing them downstairs.

“Remember you said you wouldn't put my dick anywhere near you?” Dream chuckled, tossing the condom onto the sheets next to them as he hiked the hoodie higher up George’s stomach to press a few open-mouthed kisses across George’s trembling stomach, sending puffs of his warm breath down his happy trail and smirking as George’s dick raged a deeper red while the man fumbled to defend himself. 

Dream’s curious fingers reaching it to wrap themselves around his length and

George groaned at the touch, bucking deeper into the small cavern Dream had created with his palm and Dream readily reciprocated by pumping his hand with steady flicks from his wrist.

As he kept jerking the elder off George’s hands buried themselves in Dream’s mussed hair and tugged harshly whilst Dream brought his other hand to George’s plump lips, pressing his fingers into the other’s mouth with zero resistance.

George worked his tongue over the digits, whining around them as Dream relentlessly pumped his aching penis, fingernails teasing the slit as a few drops of precum acted as an amateur lube to encourage the hand along.

After a few more painfully long moments Dream pulled his slobbered fingers free, strings of saliva leaving them connected to George’s shining lips as they dripped with spit onto George’s hoodie, the green bleeding to a darker shade amongst the splatters of blood. Dream navigated south, letting up on his stroking as George cried out, raking his nails along the other’s sensitive scalp.

“Breathe, George,” Dream urged, eyes falling onto George’s puckered and fluttering hole that seemed to be eagerly greeting him. “Tell me if you want to stop.”

George shook his head, continuing to buck his hips to force his hole closer to Dream’s face. “Keep going, you asshole, please!”

Dream smiled at his eagerness, George’s familiar rudeness bleeding through his arousal in a way that was so him as Dream pressed one of his cold fingers to George’s ass, the puckered rim almost sucking it halfway in. There was some effort to slip the finger fully in, George groaning in discomfort as Dream wiggled it deeper, the digit curling against George’s walls and sending waves of pleasure tremoring through his legs.

“More,” George begged after a minute of adjusting, the single finger no longer filling him as much as he thought. “More, please!”

“Shush,” Dream hushed, using his other hand to muffle George’s insistent groaning as he manoeuvred another finger into his hole, easing the two next to each other and starting to build a slow pace as he scissored George’s hole wider, fingers curling as they pressed in and out like a twisted dance, scraping along his walls and venturing deeper with every stretch until George screamed against Dream’s palm, teeth digging into the soft skin.

Ah, he’d found his prostate.

Dream focused on that specific spot as he pressed a third finger in to join the attack spreading each finger with every push and pull as he moaned at the obscene muffled noises George was making, his own dick inflating like a balloon between his legs to the point it had started to ache.

He started to become sloppy, his own need for release fogging his mind as he pulled his fingers free, watching George’s hole now coated in a sheen of spit gape around air as George cried for something bigger to fill him.

Dream almost felt dizzy as he felt across the bed for the plastic of the condom he had thankfully grabbed before and he tore it open impatiently between his teeth, keening at George’s whimpers and begs vibrating against his hand as he clumsily tried to roll it down his cock with one hand before he gave up, sending George a stern look to stay quiet as he unfurled the condom completely across his length, spitting into his hand to jerk himself off a few times to provide some kind of lube in the absence of an actual bottle.

George spread his legs unconsciously as Dream lined himself up, lip caught between his teeth as he admired the fluttering pink rim of the other’s desperate and needy hole. “You’re so pretty like this,” he breathed as George caught his breath to stubbornly huff.

“Shut up and fuck me,” he spat, voice hitching as Dream’s dick brushed his own. “I’ll kill you if you make me wait any longer.”

“You can stop me at any time, alright?” Dream ignored the man’s threats, heart fluttering as his tip teased George’s waiting asshole, the latter nodding frantically in understanding. “Say it with words, George, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Yes,” George hurried out, grinding his hips down and gasping as Dream’s dick caught his rim ever so slightly. “I know, I know, don’t worry.”

Satisfied with the answer Dream pressed in slowly, wincing at the slight drag of his coated penis as George hissed at the much larger intrusion. Dream wasn’t exactly massive but what he lacked in length he quickly made up for in girth, the sheer size stretching George so much wider than Dream’s calloused fingers ever could have hoped to.

“Oh my God,” George’s voice was hardly audible, eyes clenched shut as his hole twitched around Dream’s dick. “Fuck, you’re gonna tear me in half.”

Dream paused, his hardened cock already over halfway inside. “Do you want me to stop, is it too much?”

“Did I say stop?” George asked, fingers grasping the bedsheets with the tension bleeding from every pore. “What if I was into that?”

“Then I’d say you were more insane than I thought,” Dream airily laughed, inching his dick ever so slightly deeper.

“And you’d still fuck me regardless,” George argued, rolling his hips further down Dream’s length and gasping as he succeeded in forcing the dick deeper. “Shit, please just keep going before Wilbur comes up here.”

Dream nodded, bending over George’s shaking torso as he eased in further to nip on the man’s ear lobes as he finally bottomed out, balls resting on the soft curve of George’s ass.

There was a moment where time seemed to stand still as Dream paused, all but drooling onto George’s collarbone as he let his partner adjust to him, simply revelling in the tight, warm squeeze of George in his entirety hugging him.

And then Dream started to move.

He started slow, a gentle in and out as he tried to change his angle each time to rediscover the bundle of nerves that would undo George into nothing but putty in his hands. Dream didn’t bother to hide the fact that the mere idea seemed to drive his hips faster and faster until all that was left was the two of them joined into one, sweat slicking their hair into matted strands as they gasped each other’s name between needy moans and screeches of pleasure.

It didn’t take long for Dream to find what he was looking for as George bit back a scream in confirmation, Dream planting a hand into the mattress next to the elder’s head to steady himself as he kissed George with a smirk staining his lips, feeling George moan and scream into his mouth as he abused his prostate.

The heat in the room was almost unbearable, Dream’s dick swelling as he buried his flush face into George’s scorching neck, feeling the itch of the hoodie against his skin as George grinded eagerly back onto him, the two locked in a dance of lust as they each chased their own high, their orgasms creeping closer and closer as Dream’s thrusts grew sloppy and rushed, a desperate grab for release.

George could have cried at the flurry of pleasure pulsing through his very being, mind going haywire as he went limp against the bed, eyes rolling back into his skull as Dream growled above him, burying his teeth into George’s shoulder that had been exposed through the slipping hoodie and that was all it took for the knot in George’s stomach to sporadically unravel.

Cum spurted from his now softening penis, covering the hoodie and managing to hit George’s face and neck, the fucked-out look on George’s blissed face being the thing to push Dream over the edge in series, hot cum shooting into George only to catch in the condom as Dream coaxed himself through the last few waves of pleasure while he slowly eased in and out of George’s puffy and used hole, the man sighing stuck in the remainder of his euphoria, feeling his dick deflate in satisfaction as the two fought to catch their breath in the aftermath of what they’d done.

A few minutes of silence later found Dream finally pulling himself out of George and rolling the condom free, watching with pride as cum leaked out and coated the man’s trembling thighs that he was slightly tempted to scoop up and have George lick away.

If only the man in question didn’t look utterly exhausted.

Dream laughed fondly as George mustered all the strength he could to tug Dream down next to him after he had thrown the dirty condom to the floor, curling around the taller man as he kicked the blankets in frustration before Dream had the sense to throw it over them, the comforting weight appeasing the fucked out George who hummed sleepily, burrowing into Dream’s chest and holding him close.

“I take back what I said,” George whispered and Dream looked down at him in confusion.

“Take back what?” He pressed for confirmation.

“You can put your dick near me at any time.”

Chapter Text

The waking world greeted Dream with a gentle heat wrapped around him, the darkness still thick in the old bedroom they had passed out in, riding the highs of their pleasure while trying not to drown in their worry for Sapnap who was hopefully alive and well downstairs with Wilbur.

George was still peacefully dozing, curled into Dream’s warmth in reciprocation with their legs tangled in a complicated knot with the skewed bedsheets. The man was so different when he was asleep, so unassuming and small and face soft with serenity instead of its usual hardened exterior.

If Dream hadn’t spent as much time with George as he had, he wouldn't have been shocked if he’d been told they were two entirely different people; hell, perhaps he could even believe it now.

George had kissed him, had called him Dream for the first time in months, had had sex with him in his childhood bedroom! In what world would his George, the George he had grown to know and love, do that?

His thoughts were disrupted as George’s nose scrunched against him, eyelashes tickling his chest that was somehow bare? Huh, he must have stripped during the night. The elder blinked his eyes open with a small yawn, leaning subconsciously further into the heat before he realised what he was doing and pulled away with pink-tinted cheeks.

“Hey,” he whispered, the noise bouncing through the silent bedroom as Dream smiled down at him in return.

“Hey.”

Neither could think of how to continue the conversation after what had happened between the two of them, bare legs brushing each other in a way far too intimate and hickeys staining George’s skin as violent reminders.

“Good morning?” George attempted, face unsure as he laughed nervously watching Dream’s eyes sparkle with something mischievous.

“Nice cock,” he replied and he almost choked on his laughter as George pounded his fists into his chest in exasperation, muffled screams filling the awkward silence and igniting something domestic and youthful between them.

Dream almost wanted to thank the zombies for existing, could even kiss the people that had started it cause he severely doubted he ever could have done what he had with George without their interference.

“Come on, you idiot, stop hitting me so we can go check on Sapnap,” Dream suggested breathlessly, grinning like a Cheshire Cat at George’s flustered defiance.

“I don’t even want to look at you, dickhead,” George pouted, trying his best to turn over on the bed only to tug Dream closer, much to his dismay.

“You couldn’t seem to get enough of me last night,” Dream teased with a raised brow, attacking George’s exposed shoulder with a flurry of ticklish kisses as George fought for his life under him, screaming subdued profanities and threats until Dream relented and slipped unsteadily out of the mess of sheets and limbs.

George, who seemed to have forgotten that they were both nude, yelped as his eyes unknowingly drifted down, Dream chuckling as he hopped into his boxers and trousers once more, tugging George out of bed to throw the man’s own clothes at him.

“There’s cum all over my hoodie,” George whined as Dream tussled to get his shirt back over his head.

“You mean my hoodie?” He corrected as he ruffled his hair in an attempt to salvage the mess it had become. “And whose fault is that?”

“Yours,” George complained, wrapping his arms around his chest to hold the hoodie close. “And fuck off, it’s my hoodie.”

“I’m not the one who decided to keep it on during sex,” Dream shrugged, tilting his head to motion downstairs. “But if it really matters that much to you I can take that one back for now and you can have my other one downstairs.”

George wasn’t able to stop himself before he instinctually nodded with an eagerness Dream had never seen him possess, yanking his boxers and trousers on and ignoring the dried cum splattered across his skin.

The two left the room side by side, hands occasionally brushing but never quite touching as they sheepishly entered the living room to see Wilbur bent over Sapnap with a thermometer comically hanging from the teen’s mouth, bandages coating nearly every inch of his torso.

Dream felt a weight tumble from his shoulders, a budding tension he hadn’t even noticed disappointing in an instant from his skull as Sapnap, who was alive and actually had colour rushing through his face, sat in front of him with Wilbur looking as calm as a person could be.

“Sapnap,” George breathed next to him, saying so little and yet voicing every thought rushing through Dream’s mind as he darted to the sofa, Wilbur moving aside silently as George inspected the kid’s peaceful form. “He’s ok.”

“He’ll be fine, he’ll be sore for a few weeks and there’s a chance muscle movement in that arm will be severely limited but he’ll live,” Wilbur told them, pushing past George to pluck the thermometer from Sapnap’s lips. “Fever’s pretty much gone too, he’s a strong one.”

“He is, isn’t he,” Dream smiled thankfully, dropping to the floor next to George to brush a hand through Sapnap’s knotted hair. “Thank you, Wilbur, genuinely.”

“Don’t mention it,” the doctor shrugged, tucking the thermometer back into his bag. “I take it you two enjoyed yourselves anyway.”

Shit, despite their albeit throwaway attempts, they’d been caught.

“What are you talking about?” George laughed awkwardly and Wilbur glared at him.

“Don’t act like I’m stupid,” Wilbur spat, motioning between the guilty pair. “Who fucked who then?”

Dream spluttered in shock as George sank into himself in embarrassment as Wilbur smiled sarcastically at them. “He’s good at convincing you he cares isn’t he?” Wilbur continued to taunt, gesturing at George as he stared through Dream’s very soul. “I told you not to trust him.”

“And I thought I made it clear I don’t give a fuck what you think about him,” Dream argued, pressing closer to George who almost seemed guilty as he relaxed at the contact.

“Maybe,” Wilbur hummed, eyes narrowed behind his glasses. “But I’m just trying to help you, Dream.”

“Like fuck are you trying to help,” Dream hissed and Wilbur laughed at the attempt of defiance, eyes holding no life or mirth to mirror the noise.

“I helped your friend, didn’t I?” He said plainly and Dream had no room to argue. “And now I’m trying to help you so don’t be an idiot, that man is a liar and a cheat and at the end of the day he’ll have no issue leaving you behind for his own selfish reasons.”

“He wouldn’t lie to me,” Dream stood his ground blindly and he ignored how George tensed next to him.

“Dream,” George tried to interrupt and Wilbur looked ready to shoot him down with a stern look but before anyone else could utter a word the man went deathly pale, the white of his eyes bleeding a ruby red in thin, interlacing lines as his jaw fell open limply like he had no control of his muscles. His body crumpled to the floor, limbs hanging like a dead weight as he flopped over limply, a puppet abandoned by his puppet master, a man abandoned by God.

There were tremors under his greying skin, like his nerves were going into shock as his eyes went sporadic in their sockets, twitching and turning as his pupils dilated scarily wide to the point that none of the colour in his irises was visible. Drool poured in rivets from his slack jaw as a gurgling sound bounced up his throat, his toes curling like talons catching prey in a response Dream could only tie to intense pain.

“George?” He breathed, voice hitching and feeling as dry and foreign in his throat as it had all those weeks ago in that Denny’s. “George, what the fuck are you doing?”

“He’s gone into shock,” Wilbur answered for him, barrelling forward to manoeuvre the man onto his side as he checked his pulse with a steady face. “Don’t ask me from what but he’s reacting violently to something.”

As if on cue, George retched, puddled of vomit hurling from his mouth and splattering onto the carpet in off-coloured chunks, the brown coloured liquid stained with a red only distinguishable as blood.

“Has he been injured recently?” Wilbur demanded, wiping vomit away from George’s ghostly face with what Dream soon recognised as his bandana.

Well, he wasn’t getting that back any time soon.

“No, no he hasn’t,” Dream answered surely but he paused, sentence trailing off as he watched George squirm. “At least I don’t think so, he never mentioned anything.”

“And you said he’d never lie to you,” Wilbur pointed out and while Dream wanted to punch his face into his skull part of him screamed that the doctor was right.

Was George hiding something?

Wilbur moved quickly and expertly, lifting George’s limp body upright as he began to tug the hoodie off, cringing as his hand came into contact with an easily classified stain. “I take it you’d know if there was anything below the pelvis,” he hummed, looking up briefly to watch Dream nod, face flushed amongst his stress.

The hoodie slipped off easily without George’s resistance and at first glance, everything was fine until Dream’s eyes landed on the bandages. They were twisted up George’s forearm like a snake, reaching to just above his elbow and the cloth was stained a multitude of shades of yellow and red and to Dream’s horror, brown.

Wilbur cocked a brow at the reveal, hands undoing the loose knot with ease; of course, it wouldn’t be to George’s usual standard, he had done it one-handed.

The bandages fell away, slipping off George’s arm with a mere tilt of the limb and even Wilbur gasped at what was hidden beneath, dropping George completely and leaving the man to collapse back to the floor in a twitching, gurgling mess, back arching as his legs muscles started to violently contract.

George’s arm was a mess, the area oozing yellow pus that was dotted with specks of blood that must have been stolen directly from his veins and there was an absence of the familiar blue colour in what should have been his veins, instead, they pulsed with a hauntingly familiar brown.

The cause of the infected catastrophe could be none other than the several puncture wounds wrapping around his mid-arm, each around the same length and depth and belonging to something no other than teeth.

One of those fuckers had bitten him at some point in the cinema and George had hidden it in favour of helping Sapnap, regardless of the potential repercussions.

Shit, he really was an idiot.

“He’s one of them,” Wilbur accused with a hiss, hand sliding across the rough carpet to grab his bag, the familiar barrel of a gun poking from its confines as Wilbur cautiously began to arm himself.

Dream felt a spike of panic in his chest at the idea of George with his soft eyes and gentle face wielding a knife in the blink of an eye, lips pulled into a vicious snarl as he bared his blood-stained teeth like an animal, the mutilated body of his baby sister lying bleeding at his feet with his torn shoe planted firmly through her skull.

But that wasn’t George, not yet. He was still alive and those things never were.

The infection couldn’t touch him until his heart had stopped.

“Wilbur put the fucking gun away,” Dream fought to keep his voice steady, shoulders and every joint in his body tense as he watched the doctors finger fall on the trigger. “We can’t jump to that conclusion based on an injury.”

“Watch me,” Wilbur huffed, shaking himself off as his finger flexed around the trigger, the barrel aimed so clearly to George’s sweat forehead as the man bucked in silent agony on the floor. “Look at that bite and tell me it doesn't scream zombie to you.”

Dream took a shuddering breath, not enough air reaching his lungs as his chest squeezed further, feeling lightheaded as he led his hand up rigidly in front of the gun’s path.

Not that he doubted Wilbur would just shoot through him.

“Think about it, Wilbur,” Dream pleaded, pointing back at George. “He’s still alive, that disease affects corpses and you know that, if we keep him alive there’ll be no issues.”

Wilbur was fuming, face growing red as his eyes burned with heated anger, the gun shaking in his death grip as he wavered between lowering it and blasting Dream’s skull into shattered fragments.

“If anything, and I mean anything, even seems like’s he’s going to turn I won’t fucking hesitate to feed you to him with a side salad and cutlery,” Wilbur proclaimed, motioning to the hidden form of George behind Dream with a wave of his weapon. “Obviously the virus gets into open, mortal wounds and spreads from there so I’ll treat what I can now, but if that bite kills him he’s a lost cause, do you understand that, dipshit?”

Dream felt his shoulders sag as he nodded, creeping to the side and leaning against Sapnap’s sofa as Wilbur slipped his gun into his waistband, pulling rolls of bandages, creams and needles from his bag and making himself comfortable, but with some cautionary distance, next to George.

The man worked in silence, Dream watching over him with his mind racing in messy laps, dust kicking up in his memories and making even something as simple as thinking extremely difficult.

At some point Sapnap’s good arm had dropped off the sofa, draping over Dream’s shoulder, and the man appreciated the comforting weight, just knowing that Sapnap was there being enough to sate his pounding heart for even just a moment at a time.

Due to their contact, Dream could tell the exact moment Sapnap blinked back into consciousness, his fingers twitching against Dream’s collarbone and curling as the kid’s aching body tried to orientate itself.

“Dream?” His voice was croaky and sounded like shoes dragging along a pavement and Dream hummed in reply as he lay a hand atop Sapnap’s to show him he was listening. “What happened?”

“You were shot,” Dream told him plainly looking over his shoulder to see Sapnap’s tired face light up in realisation all the memories and pain rolling over him in a wave as he winced, hand darting away from Dream’s to prod the area around his shoulder.

“Don’t touch it,” Wilbur ordered bluntly from the floor, announcing his presence with a stern look as he threw another soiled wipe onto the ground next to him as he meticulously cleaned every tooth puncture along George’s arm. “You’ll open the stitches and I don’t have enough thread to do it again.”

“Who the fuck is that?” Sapnap hissed, turning to Dream with wild eyes as his hair slapped against his forehead in clumps after spending so much time rolling and sweating in a make-shift bed. “What’s going on with George?”

“George will be fine,” Dream reassured, the doubt obvious in his short sentence. “He just got hurt back in the cinema like you. And that’s Wilbur, he saved your life, he’s the old friend George told us about.”

“Old friend?” Wilbur scoffed, pushing his slipping glasses back to their right place. “Is that what he was calling me?”

“He’s someone George knew before he knew us,” Dream corrected, eye twitching in annoyance at Wilbur’s relentless coldness. “He’s safe.”

Sapnap didn't seem convinced, watching Wilbur work warily as he threaded a needle and began to sew the multiple dotting wounds shut. “Did I miss anything else?” Sapnap asked slowly, eyes not quite leaving Wilbur who blatantly ignored his untrusting stare.

“No, nothing happened when you were out, don’t worry,” Dream promised with a tight smile and it was only then Sapnap seemed to realise the glaring difference in front of him.

“Your fucking face, dude!” He screeched, sinking slightly under the dark look Wilbur shot him but still practically vibrating at his realisation. “That’s fucking new!”

Oh yeah, Dream had forgotten about that. How had he so quickly grown dependent on hiding behind that cloth only to just as quickly move on without it?

“Well, yeah, but that’s the only thing, I swear it,” Dream laughed at his own idiocy as Sapnap gaped at him, eyes raking over every little feature of Dream’s face; the dusting of stubble, the tiny pricks of freckles that coated his nose bridge, the dimple that hid away in his cheek but only on the left side and the crooked lips that smiled at his innocence and wonder.

“Oh so you and George fucking each other upstairs was a regular occurrence before this,” Wilbur hummed, still entirely focused on wiping the now sewed shut wounds with antiseptic cream. “That’s good to know.”

“You and George fucked?” Sapnap laughed in disbelief, mouth hanging open in his stunned state as he let out puffs of shocked breaths, not quite breathing in before he released the air he had gathered. “Oh my god, this is incredible!”

“Sapnap,” Dream whined, face burning red with embarrassment as he tried to kick Wilbur who was easily able to lean to the side and avoid it, not once stopping his handiwork as he wrapped George’s arm like a package. “Seriously, it’s not even that interesting.”

“Are you joking?” The kid cackled, throwing his head back against the armrest. “This is golden, like top tier bullying material, I can’t breathe!”

“Don’t say stuff like that,” Dream demanded, voice a little more panicked than he would have liked it to be as Wilbur sent him a sideways glance. “Please, Sapnap, we almost lost you.”

“Shit, ok, I’m sorry,” Sapnap apologised softly, a flurry of giggles breaking out between each word as he wound down from his joking but he didn’t sound any less sincere.

After a few beats of silence Sapnap erupted into quiet giggles again, eyebrow raised and body tilted forward so he could whisper directly into Dream’s ear. “So which one of you nutted first?”

Wilbur could have shot them both and then himself as Dream whacked Sapnap’s arm in stupefied retaliation only to half yell his waterfall of apologies as Sapnap blurted out a string of pained curses.

Chapter Text

The house remained otherwise calm for the following hour, an occasional shiver or twitch from George having Dream jerk from his dozing state as Wilbur all but pounced on the sick man to feel for his pulse and temperature.

Sapnap was unable to rest even if he wanted to, his body point-blank refusing after spending so much time bedridden so he was left to simply watch as his friend and his doctor played bedside nurse.

It was painful, Sapnap would argue worse than the fucking hole in his shoulder from where the bullet had punched through.

Dream was hating every second of it, watching George be so vulnerable and weak in a world that had toughened him was terrifying, like even the slightest gust of wind through the draft filled house would shatter the man into unsalvageable pieces.

So when George actually started to stir and move in a way that didn’t equate to a seizure, Dream could have burst into song. For once, he successfully made it to George’s side before Wilbur could, cradling the man’s heavy head in his lap as his bloodshot eyes blinked open, pupils as wide as craters and nostrils flared as his breathing picked up, fingers twitching by his sides as his sights fell on a worried Dream above him.

“Hey, George, you’re ok, you’re safe,” he rambled, brushing his fingers through George’s tousled curls as the man watched him blankly, not an ounce of recognition behind his eyes. “Talk to me.”

“Dream?” His voice was wobbly, the consonants too difficult for his numb tongue to effectively form.

Dream could have cried as he nodded encouragingly, cupping George’s cold cheek as his breathing continued to spiral out of control.

“Dream?” He tried it again, his voice more sure of itself and carrying a tone so gentle it seemed to lay a blanket across the room as Dream nodded once more, almost sobbing in relief as Georg reached up to similarly trace the taller’s jawline. “It’s you.”

In less than a moment George’s face had hardened, the soft rises and falls of his words taking on a poison that Dream might have flinched away from if it wasn’t for the hand that had been following the lines of his face wrapping itself around his throat, quickly being joined by the other, bandaged one as George pressed like his life depended on it, his nails digging into soft flesh and digging up drops of blood that beaded across Dream’s neck like a necklace.

Sapnap yelled out in shock as Dream tumbled backwards, George scrambling to stay on top of him as he snarled like an animal, black veins dancing their way up to his neck as he bared his teeth and lunged.

Dream wrestled his arms free amongst the chaos quick enough to block George’s face, teeth glinting between the gaps in his fingers as his tongue licked stripes across his palm with a cannibalistic hunger, fuzzy spots beginning to dance across Dream’s dwindling vision as George fought against him, his strength inhuman.

Inhuman.

The words sent shivers down Dream’s spine because that’s how George was acting; inhuman and no better than the creatures prowling outside.

“You motherfucker!” Wilbur growled, rising from behind George’s outline with his gun at the ready and Dream tried his best to scream at him to stop but his voice escaped as no more than airy whispers under the pressure on his windpipe.

Wilbur fired a shot into the carpet next to them, George releasing a primal screech as he momentarily let go of Dream to find the source of the noise and Dream, despite the aching pains shooting through him, flung himself from the floor, shifting their weight and sending George crashing to the floor underneath him. Dream caught the man’s thrashing hands and pinned them to the carpet, sitting on his heaving stomach to keep him held to the ground despite his bucking as Wilbur moved to stand next to them, face indifferent as Sapnap tried to catch his breath behind them, curling into a ball at the back of the sofa as he held his head in his hands and covered his eyes from the sight before him.

He didn’t want to see George like that.

Dream stared wide-eyed at the mess George had been reduced to in a matter of hours, his stomach churning as his brain reminded him with flashes of memories between every snarl and scream and gnashing teeth coming from George how the man’s head had been flung back, face flushed as he screamed Dream’s name and held him close in the same position as he was in now.

Dream almost backed away as the thoughts bombarded him but as he saw Wilbur check over his gun and aim it again it was like the mist of panic that had been blinding him cleared in an instant, leaving him coughing for air through his bruised throat as he twisted his body to shield the bloodthirsty monster he had pinned underneath him… to shield George.

“Wilbur, no, you can’t shoot him,” Dream wheezed, wincing as every breath set his lungs on fire, feeling the fatigue in his arms as George wrestled him relentlessly. “It’s still George!”

“Like fuck it is,” Wilbur laughed scornfully, kicking Dream away without a second thought and planting his boot into George’s neck in replacement, watching with a mix of sadness and satisfaction as George squirmed beneath him, screaming and clawing at his trouser leg. “I told you he’d be a lost cause,” he shrugged as Sapnap pulled a kicking and defiant Dream away, holding the elder close and burrowing his face in his shoulder as Wilbur leaned down and pressed the cold barrel of the gun against George’s forehead, staring into the abyss of his darkened irises as he smiled solemnly. “Nice knowing you, old friend.”

And like something from a fairytale, George’s veins began to bleed red again, black vines creeping away from his neck as his dilated pupils shrank into pinpricks, angered screams meshing into confused sobs as he pushed at Wilbur’s heavy boot, begging for release.

Even Wilbur seemed shocked by the change, cautiously lifting his boot and removing his gun as George scurried away like a frightened mouse, shaking his head in denial as he started to hyperventilate.

No one could have hoped to stop Dream who ignored the blood dotting his collarbones to rush towards the other man, holding him close despite what had just transcribed and trying his best to keep his breathing even for George to follow it.

It took longer than Dream was comfortable with for George to finally gain control of his breathing and successfully draw in enough air to keep himself conscious as Wilbur and Sapnap watched on in stunned silence, the entire room on edge in case George snapped again, personality melting away into a crazed monster with intent to kill.

‘What did I do?” He whispered as his watery eyes landed on the droplets of blood decorating Dream’s neck and chest, voice so quiet it was hardly decipherable. “What’s happening to me?”

“You’re turning into one of them,” Wilbur answered for everyone, Sapnap and Dream stuck in collective denial and unable to form the words. “That bite, the zombie virus is encouraging an infection to kill you and it’s already started to take hold.”

George shook his head frantically, nails clawing at the bandages restraining his arm as Dream held him tighter, brushing his fingers through George’s hair and scratching his scalp in a way he prayed was comforting.

“We’re gonna get you help,” Dream swore, rocking the older man softly as he cried. “We’re gonna turn this planet inside out to get a cure, ok?”

“There is no cure,” George denied, shaking his head with more vigour as he pressed himself into Dream’s heat. “You can’t do anything.”

“There has to be something,” Sapnap said determinedly, sitting up to his full height on the sofa as he cradled his arm close to his chest, shoulder entirely immobile. “There’s gotta be and wherever it is we’ll find it!”

“I’ll check my journal, yeah?” Dream smiled, lips wavering as his smile occasionally tipped into a worried frown. “I must have worked out something in all that time I was researching.”

George was inconsolable, still not letting up on his denial. “There’s nothing you can do,” he insisted, choking on his repressed sobs as Wilbur watched on with a hardened exterior, holding himself as his legs trembled.

It seemed it was just as hard on him to watch George fall apart both literally and metaphorically.

“How are you so sure,” Dream barked, his nerves getting the best of him as he snapped. “Why are you so fucking insistent that we can’t help you?”

George didn’t answer, babbling nothingness into Dream’s chest as Wilbur’s imposing height towered before the pair, shrouding them in his shadow as he stared with something unreadable behind the blinding glint of his lenses at George’s snivelling form.

“You need to tell them, George, it’s not fair to keep dragging them along like this,” Wilbur left no room for argument, hands curled into fists by his side as George paused to digest what Wilbur wanted him to do.

“They’ll hate me,” he whispered, the low tone vibrating through Dream’s chest and planting a spike in his heart.

“Maybe you should have thought about that,” Wilbur said coldly, running his glance over Dream and then Sapnap before he sighed. “I’ll leave the three of you alone for a while, I’ll be in the next room.”

Dream nodded dumbly as Sapnap gave him a shaky thumbs-up, Wilbur backing awkwardly from the room before he paused, wetting his lips before he spoke again. “Hey, Dream?”

Dream looked up at the mention of his name.

“I know you don’t like me much but that journal of research you mentioned? Can I read it?”

Dream didn’t care enough to say no.

And then it was just the three of them like it had been for so long and yet something was so inherently different.

Like a further twist of the knife, George pulled away from Dream’s side, lips quivering with a face glistening with tears that he tried to wipe away with his sleeves only to realise Dream’s oversized hoodie was gone.

He didn’t ask for it back which somehow only served to hurt Dream further.

“I don’t know where to start,” George winced, twisting a finger to the point Dream could hear the faint pop in the socket.

“Start at the start,” Sapnap urged, wetting his lips as he tried his best to lean forward on the sofa, every slight movement sending shooting pains down his arm.

George didn’t look like he wanted to, wiping harshly at his damp face again as he swallowed. “Uh, that job I told you about, it was a job in research,” he explained, hands tying themselves in knots in his lap. “Fuck, I don’t know how to make this easy.”

“Don’t make it easy then,” Dream whispered, avoiding George’s face in fear of what he might see. “Just say it how it is, yeah?”

George nodded rigidly, body rocking with how forced it was. “My mum, before all this shit, she was sick and she wasn’t going to make it through the year with what the doctors were telling us but I could tell she wasn’t going to last as long as they were hoping,” he began, face downtrodden at the onslaught of memories telling the story was bringing on. “I worked in a lab that specialised in biological weapons for the military and we were developing a gaseous serum to increase bodily regeneration for our troops, one that could hit and affect multiple subjects at once for efficiency and all that.”

Dream could have been sick, ears ringing as George’s words echoed in his empty skull like the taunting cackle of a hyena.

“It was nowhere near done, we’d only just started to see small successes in rodent testing and there were absolutely no talks of human trials for at least half a decade but I didn’t know what else to do,” George choked, biting down on his knuckles as his brought his knees to his chest to ground himself, clinging to them like a child to its mother.

“George, please fucking tell me this isn’t going where I think it is,” Dream pleaded, voice uneasy as he finally met George’s eyes, eyes that stared back at him with pure guilt swimming through them, begging with their entire soul for forgiveness.

“I snuck my mum in when my coworkers had left and I administered it and fuck, at first I thought it was working,” George’s voice broke as tears freely tumbled down his cheeks. “For the first time in months, she was able to look at me, like properly look at me with life in her eyes but-“

He couldn’t finish his sentence and Dream couldn’t even think to comfort him.

“The serum worked, it cured fucking everything, but the side effects were severe. She snapped, destroying equipment and smashing all our work and if it wasn’t bad enough already, I had to fight off my own mother when she jumped at me with a scalpel,” he sobbed. “Security started to show up after the alarms went off but by that point, the gas was in the ventilation and their guns couldn’t stop her and she ripped their throats out one by one. I watched every one of them turn and I ran like a fucking coward.”

“It was you?” Sapnap breathed, face unfocused as he processed his own words before his features twisted into something ugly. “It was fucking you!”

“I’m sorry,” George cried. “The serum didn’t work as expected, the regeneration was due to its ability to speed up mitosis and apparently it could divide itself just as quickly, there was nothing any of us could do to stop it once it was free.”

“You were the one who caused this?” Dream hissed, inching backwards in disgust as George pleadingly looked at him. “You’re the reason my family is dead, you’re why my little sister had her neck snapped in half before she could even turn thirteen!”

“I never meant for it to get so bad,” George cried, knuckles turning white with how harshly he was gripping his trousers. “I swear I only wanted to help people!”

“So what? You’re trying to pay for how bad you fucked up by bringing us somewhere safe?” Sapnap huffed, face twitching in anger. “Because to be quite fucking honest, that doesn’t even begin to make up for it.”

George seemed to shrivel up at the mention of the safe haven and suddenly Dream remembered every flinch and sullen look from George at the mention of what should have been a beacon of hope for his gargantuan fuck up.

“What else are you not telling us?” Dream demanded, his usually warm demeanour ice cold and the entire room seemed to suffer its consequences. “No more lies, George or I’ll be sending you to meet your fucking mother.”

“The safe haven is the lab that I helped my coworkers salvage after the outbreak. Wilbur helped to kit us out with the medical shit we needed and we began working on a cure,” George explained, curling into a tighter ball as if to hide or lessen the blow of a kick or punch. “Since I started the whole mess there was a majority vote that I would be the one to bring in test subjects for human trials.”

The words hung heavy, incriminating and inescapable. Dream and Sapnap had been tangled in its net and there was no escape from that truth anymore as Dream started to laugh hysterically, eyes uncharacteristically dead as he gestured between himself and Sapnap.

“We were going to be your little lab rats weren’t we?” He said adamantly and from his peripheral he could see Sapnap freeze at the accusation, face falling from anger into sinking despair. “You weren’t grabbing medical stuff from that hospital at all, were you? You were looking for vulnerable people who had no other choice but to follow you to their fucking death!”

Any ounce of rage Sapnap was feeling evaporated, it showed through his expressions and how every bone in his body seemed to give up, melting into putty in his body. “George, is that true?” He breathed, looking at the man in question through his eyelashes. “You only saved me to experiment on me?”

“I found your records in the hospital,” George admitted after an extended pause, the words dying in his throat, sniffling as he heard Sapnap take a sharp breath. “You were blood type O, a universal donor, I assumed you’d be a good bet for what we needed to do.”

Sapnap sat in stunned silence, face gaunt as he tugged at his cropped hair, unable to form a word against George, no matter how badly he wanted to tear through the man and rip him apart from the inside out.

“And Wilbur?” Dream continued for him. “Did he know?”

“Not from the start, I helped Wilbur and his college roommate set up The Hive in return for the lab and he occasionally tried to help with the cure research and then every few weeks I’d take someone from The Hive who wasn't half comatose from alcohol poisoning,” George admitted shamefully. “Wilbur noticed the missing people but never made the connection. It was when his little brother told him his best friend had disappeared that Wilbur worked it out. His roommate, that pink-haired guy from the basement, ended up stopping him from killing me on the spot but not for mercy, they just didn’t want another zombie to deal with,” George finished, voice trailing off.

Nobody knew where to start to digest that information, their thundering heartbeats and electrified nerves filling their ears and the room like a suffocating pillow, pressing harder and harder and harder until Dream felt something inside him snap.

“Get out, George. I don’t care where just leave us the fuck alone,” Dream barked, forcing himself to not look as George flinched away from his anger, stumbling over himself as he stood, walking on trembling legs as he scurried from the room like a mouse running from the judgement of the broom but not before glancing back with a distant look on his face as his mouth half-opened, desperately wanting to say something but not having the strength.

Sapnap watched him go with a frown pulling at his lips, the vein in his neck throbbing as he gulped, sinking into the sofa as he rubbed a hand down his face, the skin pulling as he mutely screamed into his palms. “Was that too harsh?” He murmured into his hands, looking over his fingers to Dream whose head snapped to the side to look at him. “I mean… he’s George.”

“Did you not listen to what he said?” Dream hissed, breaths heavy as he raised his brows in confusion. “Sapnap, he was going to use you as a fucking science project.”

“Yeah, but technically he’s looking for a cure so maybe it would have been worth it,” Sapnap shrugged uneasily, trying to convince himself of what he was saying.

“A cure for the fucking virus he started,” Dream reminded coldly, slamming his fist into the ground next to him, shockwaves dancing up his arm as his fist ached from the force. “He ruined everything!”

“But he’s trying to fix it, Dream,” Sapnap whispered, laying a hand softly against his bandaged shoulder. “You can tell he regrets it, you can’t say he doesn’t care.”

Dream chewed his lip as he swallowed his strongly wondered retorts, head reeling to spit all sorts of profanities and accusations to hide from the fact he was hurting.

It was easier to be angry than to face the fact that he understood.

If Dream had the chance to save his sister or his mother or father he would be fucking lying if he said he wouldn’t go to any extent for that reality; what George did was human.

Shit, there comes all the connections, swarming around the unwilling Dream like bees to a flower.

George had been drowning in his guilt and felt so bad for what he had done that he didn’t consider himself human anymore. He thought the monsters he created while making the most human of mistakes for the sake of such a human emotion, had more humanity in their rotting souls than he did.

Dream could see the stars twinkle in his eyelids every time he blinked.

He’d fucked up, perhaps not as much as George but he was no less of an asshole.

“Fuck, Sap, what are we supposed to do now?” Dream sighed and Sapnap shook his head, entirely unknowing.

George was going to die if they didn’t do something, and not just die, he was going to be warped and mutilated by the very thing he made and there was nothing that could be done to save him. That zombie had mauled his arm like it was something personal and while Dream and Wilbur had treated it, the virus was persistent and unless one of them wanted to take the fall and attempt to suck it out, it was going to corrupt every cell in George’s corpse till there was nothing left.

Dream couldn’t just let George die.

That was George, the George that had snarked at him in a Denny’s, the George who soaked his hoodie and claimed Dream’s as his own with his stupid colourblindness and stubbornness to call Dream anything but his name. It was the George that he had sat with on the cinema’s roof, looking at the stars and being two normal people together and it was the George he had kissed to hide in a rave before they took each other in their entirety in George’s childhood bedroom.

That was Sapnap’s George, the man who had saved the kid no matter what his original intentions were.

It was Dream’s George, the man who showed him the light at the end of the zombie tunnel, who had shown him friendship for the first time in months.

And George couldn’t be left to just die after they had been through.

He said just that out loud and Sapnap perked up at his voice, face twisted in confusion at the proclamation. “But there’s no cure, he’s a deadman, Dream, it’s literally just a matter of when he decides to die now.”

“No,” Dream insisted. “It’s not over yet, he was looking for a cure, right? If we can get that cure then he’s saved!”

“I don’t think I should have to tell you they’re still trying to find that cure,” Sapnap sighed. “Dream, I hate it too but we literally can’t do anything except forgive him before he turns into one of those things.”

“No,” Dream barked again, standing from the floor and racing to gather his few items scattered across the room. “There’s something I can do and it’s taking him to that lab and letting them do whatever the fuck they need to do,” Dream huffed, watching Sapnap’s face fall as the kid started to demand him to calm the fuck down.

“You’re just gonna let them experiment on you?” He screeched, shaking his head as if his life depended on it, or Dream’s life technically. “You could die!”

“And so what?” Dream laughed emptily. “It’s either they get a cure or George and every other person on this fucking planet dies and turns into one of those things!” Dream explained, pointing upstairs to where George had disappeared to. “As long as he’s ok, as long as you’re ok, then I don’t care what happens to me.”

Chapter Text

Dream could have laughed at himself for how afraid he was of a door.

The wood seemed to taunt him, the cracks and splinters displaying its age and the slightly off-coloured handle laughing at him as he stood in its wake, hand not quite touching the handle but already too committed to pull away.

In his defence, the door wasn’t the real issue; he wasn’t that much of a pussy, not after a year fending for himself against literal zombies. No, the problem was that George was behind that door, without a doubt the man who had intended to lead him to his death like a sheep to slaughter was sat in the very bedroom they had fucked in only hours earlier.

Dream could have slammed his head into the door from the mess of it all.

How had his life twisted into such a complicated series of events in only a few months?

Regardless, Dream needed to open the door sooner or later and face George, otherwise, the man would die and Dream’s brave proposal would have been for nothing.

With one more deep breath Dream pushed the door open, not allowing himself time to think as it swung on its hinges to present the darkened room to him. George was hunched over the desk, frantically writing something if Dream was to guess, and he almost launched himself cleanly through the roof with shock as he was jolted from his thoughts by Dream’s abrupt arrival.

Dream felt his chest stutter but he swallowed the nauseating feeling as he ghosted in the doorway, not quite having the strength to step any closer. “What are you writing?”

“It’s nothing,” George hurried out, avoiding Dream’s eyes as he shuffled the paper behind his figure. 

And there was that rage again, a deep burning in his gut that was screaming at him to fucking think, George had lied to him, was still lying to him! Why should he be worth saving?

But as George snuck glances at him with his shaking lips and trembling fingers, soft eyes not as hardened and evil as Dream wanted to pretend they were, he could see the truth of it all once more, burning fire subduing itself as he stared at the George he had taught himself to care about.

“No more lies,” Dream breathed unseat, watching as the other chewed his lip to pieces in his mouth, skin tinted red from the dewdrops of blood. “What are you writing?”

George’s shoulders slumped as he dragged the paper back in front of him, finger tracing the scrawled letters as he battled with himself to look Dream in the eye. “A goodbye letter? A suicide note? I don’t know it’s difficult,” George replied vaguely and yet Dream understood it perfectly.

“You were going to sneak off, right? Die somewhere away from here like a fucking elephant so you don’t hurt us?” Dream answered for him, resting his weight against the doorframe as George crumpled the paper in his fist, nodding his head in silent confirmation. “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“Dream, I can feel it under my skin,” George whined, shaking his head at Dream’s stubbornness. “It’s fucking crawling through me and I can feel it trying to get out, I could hurt you all and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself,” he cried, fingers itching at the bandages like he wanted to claw the skin away. “It could happen any minute now, Dream, please I’m begging you.”

“All the reason to go as soon as possible then,” Dream shrugged, pushing away from the wall as he motioned for George to follow, a lump building in his throat as George crumbled before him. “Come on, we need to pack our shit.”

“Pack our shit, huh?” George stammered. “What? Go where? What do you mean?” He rambled brokenly, staggering from his seat at the desk and nearly knocking the thing over as he backed towards a corner, hands held up in defence.

“Your lab, where else?” Dream said blankly, feeling like his tongue was swelling in his mouth as he folded his arms across his chest in an image of nonchalant. “You need a cure and your coworkers need someone to develop it on, so let’s go.”

“Dream-what? Hold on,” George argued, falling over himself as he rushed towards Dream to try and push him out of the bedroom and as far away from him as possible. “No, I’ve hurt you all enough, I’m not going with you!”

He was determined, Dream had spent enough time with the guy to know that, watching his fists curl as his nails dig into his palms, brows furrowed as he trembled from the tension in his limbs.

But Dream had his mind made up and George hadn’t seen a thing yet if he’d never seen Dream fuelled with a purpose.

Clay had always been stubborn, wanting to learn so many things and go to so many places and after the outbreak, Dream had devoted himself to one thing and one thing only; killing those fucking creatures that were crawling around outside and seeping through George’s bloodstream.

He had yet to complete that goal and whether or not George would comply wasn’t going to stop him.

“Will it make it easier for you if I just threaten you,” Dream hummed, grabbing George’s fumbling hands and pulling him closer. “You can claim I was holding you hostage if your morals start asking questions.”

“I can’t let them do those things to you,” George begged, thrashing in Dream’s sturdy grip. “Please, Dream, let me do this for you both!”

“No, George,” Dream said with finality, tugging George impossibly close to the point their breaths mingled into an inseparable mixture of gas. Dream held the smaller like he was made of porcelain, raking his eyes of every little imperfection and bump in his skin, staring into his broken eyes and wondering how George’s skewed eyesight painted him. “This is my choice, you stubborn asshole.”

George panted from exertion, stopping his struggling as he stared at Dream with such a distant and foreign look, Dream wondered if the man had even a single thought running through his head. He pushed George away gently, pulling his gun from its usual place and holding it steady between Geoge’s eyes, cocking an eyebrow as he wet his cracking lips.

“C’mon, George,” Dream hummed, hating how resigned the man was looking up the barrel of the gun. “Get downstairs or I’ll shoot.”

George wasn’t believing a word of it, then again Dream had told him he would just pretend to threaten him for the sake of it, but regardless, the elder played along, shuffling around Dream as the gun trailed him and making his way slowly downstairs, arms tense as they gripped the wall to steady himself.

Sapnap perked up at the sound of footsteps from his spot on the sofa, face lighting up when he saw George before it dropped again, remembering the reason why the man was ever secluded in the house in the first place. Neither of them had words for each other and Sapnap was off-put by the drawn gun aimed at the back of George’s head.

“He agreed to it?” Sapnap asked cautiously and Dream snorted, waving at the teen with his gun.

“Does it look like he agreed to it?”

“I was hoping maybe that would convince you not to do it,” Sapnap sighed, shrugging as his gaze dropped defeated to the floor. “You’re being a dick.”

“Maybe,” Dream shrugged back, nudging George gently forward with a palm to his lower back as the pair both began to gather their bags and any medical equipment strewn about. “I’m not changing my mind though.”

“Changing your mind on what?” Wilbur’s voice suddenly burst through the room, a startlingly loud and confident contrast to the others’ subdued whispers, too afraid to say anything in case another were to fall apart. The doctor only then seemed to notice the hurried packing and the gun still half pointed at George’s back. “What the fuck is going on?”

“Dream is taking George to the lab,” Sapnap answered before anyone else could, not bothering to sugarcoat a single thing in hopes that maybe, just maybe, Wilbur would give enough of a shit to stop it. “He’s gonna let them work on him to try and cure George.”

Wilbur didn’t say anything, ghosting in the doorway with his fried hair pushed back off his forehead, glasses unusually hooked on his yellow jumper as he watched Dream continue with what he was doing, a semblance of a smile dancing on his thin lips.

“Remember how I told you not to be an idiot?” Wilbur half-shouted across the room, Dream’s shoulders tensing at his address.

“Remember I told you I didn’t give a fuck what you said?” Dream shot back with a snarl, pulling his bag onto his shoulder as George quietly tucked the last of his things away, face gaunt as he trembled on the floor, possibly only minutes away from collapsing.

“I’m not going to stop you,” Wilbur reassured easily, folding his arms as he tilted his head to watch the ruckus in the living room. “It’s admirable really, what you’re doing for him.”

“I don’t care what you think either,” Dream drawled, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he ignored Sapnap’s frown beside him. “I’m not doing this to be a hero.”

“Oh, trust me, I know,” Wilbur grinned. “You’re too much of an asshole for that but that’s what I like about you, Dream,” he hummed, smirking as Dream paused, grip faltering on his gun as even George snuck a glance at the doctor with shock painting his features. “You know what you want and that’s more than most people these days.”

“I don’t get what you’re saying,” Dream admitted through narrowed eyes, watching as Wilbur shifted his weight in the doorway.

“What I’m saying is good luck,” he reinstated, “If you don’t come back, it was nice knowing you for the time I did, even if you’re a dick, on that note, I’m keeping your research, I don’t think you need it anymore.”

Dream barked a laugh before he nodded surely. “Thank you, Wilbur.”

Wilbur smiled with a cocky wave. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen with you two but I’ve got the kid, alright? I’ll take care of him and fuck, I’m sure Tommy’ll like him,” he promised nodding towards Sapnap whose face fell.

“You’re not taking me with you?” He asked quietly, the question aimed for both Dream and George who froze, looking between each other before Dream took the fall and nodded. “But you might not come back.”

“We might,” Dream tried to reassure but Sapnap crumbled under the blatant lie, tears welling in his eyes as he lunged, grabbing Dream and George in one fell swoop despite the pain in his shoulder and holding them in a hug so tight Dream could see stars.

But he didn’t pull away, he let Sapnap squeeze them like he would never see them again, which was probably the truth of it all and he went as far as to bring his own arms up to deepen the embrace, all three of them holding each other like nothing else mattered.

Sapnap cried between them, deep, broken sobs ripping their way through his vocal cords as his fingers dug into their clothes in a last-ditch attempt to ground them in the living room and Dream felt his heart shatter in his chest.

This was the first time he had truly seen Sapnap act his age; sure the kid had joked and been an overall teenage pain in the ass but this was the foundation, the childlike fear of losing the only family he had left.

“I don’t want you to go,” he wailed, burying his face into both of their chests and Dream tried his best to comfort him with sweet nothings, resting his head on the kid’s hair as he stroked his back through the wracking sobs as George broke into quiet cries too.

“It’s gonna be ok, Sap,” Dream promised, pressing a light kiss to the teen’s head, easing away from the hug to hold his shaking hands, George hiding his face in his shoulder as Sapnap released them both to hide his flowing tears. “You’re the strongest motherfucker I know and you’re going to get through this.”

“But I don’t want to get through it alone,” Sapnap whispered, voice fragile as he held himself tight. “It was going to be the three of us, we were going to find the safe haven together and we were going to kill all the zombies.”

“I know, Sap,” Dream hummed, rubbing small circles into Sapnap’s palms with his thumbs. “And we were going to have beds and a pillow too, remember?”

Sapnap nodded messily, sniffling as his nose continued to uncontrollably run.

“And I’m sorry,” George offered his own goodbye. “You didn’t deserve to run into me and I never deserved to meet you.”

“Ah, fuck you,” Sapnap laughed wetly, batting at George who was holding back the rest of his tears. “I wouldn’t have lasted a day without you, George, remember you’re the ultimate badass, you taught me all I know!”

George laughed softly, an uneasy smile on his face as Dream carefully removed Sapnap’s clinging hands from his own. “You’re probably an even bigger badass than I am now.”

“You’re gonna be fine, Sap,” Dream promised with a sure nod. “The world’s not ready for you and you’re gonna set it on fire when you get the chance.”

“I’ll miss you both,” Sapnap smiled weakly as the two stood up, Dream softly gripping George’s wrist as the man worryingly swayed. “I’ll make sure to enjoy that bed and pillow for all three of us.”

Dream moved first, gently tugging George behind him as they made their way to the front door, the relentless and unforgiving wake-up call of reality only separated from them by a block of PVC as Dream clicked the door open, only to be stopped by Wilbur calling out to them, transversing the living room in mere steps with his lanky body.

“Consider it a parting gift,” he said vaguely, thrusting something into George’s free hand with a tight smile. “I still hate your guts, George but I wish you both the best, yeah?”

George opened his palm to see the glinting metal of the keys to the jeep sitting safely in his hand. “Thank you, Wilbur, I know apologising is pointless by now but if it means anything to you, I am so beyond sorry for what I did to you and your family.”

“It’s fine,” Wilbur choked, obviously not fully meaning it but Dream and George both appreciated his white lie. “It’s all about survival out there.”

George nodded, hesitating before he offered his hand that Wilbur considered for an extended moment before taking it, the two sharing a firm handshake as Dream nudged the door open next to them, the light of the outside illuminating the room they were standing in as the truth of their situation poured in with it.

“Bye, strangers!” Sapnap called out to them as Dream waved George out of the house with his gun, waving with energy not so easily mirrored on his bloated face. “It was nice knowing you both!”

Chapter Text

If George spontaneously turning into a blood-crazed zombie didn’t kill Dream first, his God-awful driving was sure to do the job.

Yeah, so he hadn’t actually gotten his licence before the outbreak but he had always figured driving couldn’t be that hard; his mum always made it look easy.

But his mum had driven an automatic, Wilbur on the other hand, like the fucking lunatic he was, drove a manual.

That was not so easy.

George had learned in a manual and in any other situation would have been entirely qualified to drive the jeep but he was too drowsy and sickly to even think about operating a vehicle and yet somehow, his driving might have been safer than Dream sitting behind the wheel.

It was a difficult atmosphere to unravel, Dream desperately wanted to crack jokes and poke fun at how George was clinging to his seat with such ferocity the fabric was breaking under his nails but the wounds between them still felt too fresh.

Fresh to the point that acting as they had before might be no better than pouring salt right into the open skin.

Dream’s gun sat loaded next to his thigh, the safety firmly on much to his favour with every pothole, definitely not persistent creatures that tried to clamber over the bonnet, that he mercilessly drove the jeep over sending the vehicle into a harsh bounce.

George’s eyes seemed to see drift to the weapon unconsciously before he snapped his sight away from it, staring with impossibly wide eyes out of the front window as beads of sweat started to creep from his hairline, breath not quite even as his pupils slowly began to expand, vines of blood winding throughout the rest of his shaking eyes.

He didn’t have much time left…

“How far away is it now?” Dream asked through gritted teeth, fingers tightly clenched around the vibrating gear stick in the middle console as George’s hand spasmed next to him. “C’mon, George fucking talk to me.”

“Another ten minutes maybe?” The man forced the words from his throat, itching coughs wracking his body as he dry-heaved, fingers finally navigating from the fabric seats to the tightly wound bandages on his arm, picking at the loose threads and pulling on the edges in a plea for freedom. “There’s a slip road somewhere along this one that takes you right to it.”

Dream nodded, keeping one eye on the road for the slip road that had been mentioned as the other stayed firmly trained on George. His eyelids were fluttering at unnatural speeds, the red crisscrossed white of his eyeballs on full display as they rolled into the back of his skull, jaw slack once more as his limbs fell to limp, twitching blocks of lead.

“It’s happening again,” he coughed, words slurred like his tongue had inflated in his dried out mouth. “Can feel it fucking eating at me.”

“Just a bit longer, George,” Dream hissed, foot pressing flat to the floor on the accelerator as he slammed on the clutch to yank the car up a gear, engine revving in distaste as the jeep jerked to its highest speed, tyres screeching and blending into the screams of agitated zombies that had quickly taken notice of the blaring sound of the jeep. “Please just hold on.”

Dream could feel the car swerving, friction hardly a factor anymore as the tyres glided across the bloodstained concrete with hyena-like laughter pouring in through the windows as about half a dozen zombies made a game out of catching up to them, clambering over each other as their fingernails scratched the paint.

Dream only let himself take notice of them when one came entirely out of nowhere, pouncing from the treeline that bordered the road and clinging to the window, fist-pounding into the glass that quickly started to crack under the force.

George whined at the sound as Dream swore under his breath, keeping one hand on the widely out of control steering wheel as he collected his gun from next to his thigh, firing two shots at his window; one shattered the glass entirely, sending shards flying across the road like confetti as the other buried itself in the zombie's forehead, skin concaving around the hole as its skull collapsed, bullet blasting its way from the back of its head with a spray of misted blood as its body fell weakly from where it was relentlessly gripping the jeep and crumbling to the road in a heap.

That’s that one taken care of for a few hours at least, especially with the proximity the bullet was at.

Thankfully, the other zombies couldn’t quite keep up with the startling speed Dream was driving at, screeching and howling like animals as the jeep hurtled further away from them, Dream’s head reeling with adrenaline as gusts of wind thundered through the shattered window.

Wilbur was going to fucking kill him if he ever got the chance.

The feral scream soon faded and apart from the whipping of the wind against the interior of the jeep, there wasn’t a sound.

Dream’s ear felt stuffed with cotton wool and he felt his heart stutter to a stop as he realised he could no longer hear George’s pained whines or the scratch of his trousers against the seats.

“George?” He asked carefully, slowly looking away from the empty expanse of the road to see George lying blankly, slouched against the car seat. “George?”

Not a single response, not even a twitch of a finger to show that he could hear anything.

“Fuck, George, are you ok?”

And then he got a reply he would have been much happier never receiving, George screaming at him with his eyes flying open to reveal an inky blackness, teeth bared as he lunged across the console, grabbing the wheel as he tried to fight himself closer to Dream with his hands clutching at any of the other’s clothing as he tried to bury his teeth into his throat.

The jeep swerved dangerously as Dream fought to keep it steady, elbowing George in the gut to keep his gnashing teeth and clawed hands as far from him as he could as he tried desperately to find his gun but in the end, there was only so much he could do.

The jeep lost control, jerking to the left and slamming into one of the thick tree barks that dotted along the never-ending stretch of road, bonnet crumpling as both George and Dream flew forward, the neglect of a seatbelt leaving Dream miserably winded as his chest crashed into the quickly inflated airbag as George fell much less lucky, flailing body getting flung over the glove compartment and smashing through the windscreen, shards of glass cutting his skin to ribbons as Dream gasped for breath at the wheel, clawing at his throat that felt like it filling with wet concrete, slowly hardening and sealing his lungs away in his empty chest.

His ears were ringing in the aftermath, head thumping to an inaudible beat as Dream desperately tried to regain his awareness, his vision spinning as he tried to do something as meagre as lift a finger only to feel like he was moving it through thick, thick honey.

Every second he sat in shock was another second a zombie could creep closer and as Dream drunkenly blinked into awareness that was one of the only motivators to get him to fucking move from the busted jeep, the other being George.

The man was all but folded over on himself, blood pouring from various shallow cuts across his body and a particularly big one in his hairline. His bitten arm looked twisted, elbow almost certainly not where it was supposed to be and Dream almost retched as he fell out of the raised jeep, the door swinging open easily as he swatted the persistent airbag away, remembering at the last second to retrieve his gun from where it had fallen to the floor.

It was embarrassingly difficult to navigate to the front of the jeep, the metal of the frame bent inwards to mould around the shape of the tree trunk and the headlights were shattered to pieces in their sockets, wires pouring from the depths like snakes pouring from a burrow.

To Dream’s horror, George was conscious by the time he made it to him. And not zombie-George, his George with his familiar soft eyes and pale neck, not a single black vein in sight.

He was crying, from the pain Dream reasonably assumed, but he was quickly proven wrong when he stumbled a step closer and George dissolved further.

“No, no don’t fucking come any closer,” he heaved, clutching at his stomach with his good arm as the other lay useless next to him. “You fucking asshole, I’ll kill you if you come near me!”

Dream couldn’t tell if that was one of George’s lighthearted threats or a genuine warning.

“George,” Dream croaked. “Please, we don’t have time for this!”

“I know that!” George screeched, tears streaking across his bloated face. “I’m not going to make it to the lab, there’s no fucking cure, ok!”

“George,” Dream begged, not quite able to finish his sentence as George determinedly shook his head.

“No, Dream,” he insisted, pointing shakily at himself. “I’m turning into one of them, I can feel it getting worse and worse every second,” he explained. “It’s like poison, it's fucking creeping through me and eating my organs and there’s nothing I can do!”

“We can fix this,” Dream pushed, trying to step closer but George threw his hand up in warning.

“No we can’t,” he sobbed, face drowning in sorry but voice confident. “I’m going to die, Dream.”

“No, you’re not!” Dream yelled, tears welling in his eyes and blinding him as he swayed next to the wreckage. “I won’t let you!”

“There’s nothing you can do, you persistent asshole,” George cried, coughing as he spat blood onto the hood of the jeep to join the collecting puddles, arm cracking in the background as the bone fixed itself, a sure tell as to what was happening before Dream’s very eyes. “Just fucking kill me now, Dream.”

Dream snapped back to awareness, blinking the tears away as a few escaped and slid incriminatingly down his cheeks. ‘What?”

“The way you told me, cutting the virus off at the source?” George continued. “If you do that and kill me, I won’t become one of those things, right?”

“George, shut the fuck up,” Dream hissed, shaking his head as he held his gun behind his back like a child. “I’m not going to kill you, you’re not going to die.”

“No dead weight, remember that?” George huffed, face twisted in agony as his arm fully snapped back into place, the knots for the bandages loosening under the strange circumstances. “That was why I let you come with us back then in that Denny’s and it’s the same deal for me now, I’m not safe to have around.”

“No it’s not the same,” Dream argued, a cold shiver winding its way up his rigid spine. “You’re George, you’re the same George I’ve spent the last weeks with and you’re the same George I fucking care about!”

“If you care so much about that George then why won’t you do what I’m asking you to?” George asked, his voice suddenly much softer, a pleading hum as he lay in what seemed to be serenity, limbs twitching of their own accord as his eyes grew hazy. “I don’t want to go, Dream but I know I’d rather die on my fucking terms while I’m still myself, I don’t want you to see me any more zombie-like than I already am and I don’t want you to have to kill me like I’m a fucking bug or something,” George explained easily, fingers scratching into the metal of the jeep as he reached out for Dream who moved on autopilot, watching through eyes that were not his own as George used whatever was left of his strength to tug the other’s hand out from hiding, the damned gun introducing itself with the cold steel of the barrel glinting in the dwindling sunset.

“Please, Dream, if I’m going to die I want you to be the one to do it,” he begged, guiding the gun easily to rest between his eyes as he stared up at Dream lovingly. “C’mon, stranger, you were so insistent you’d do it when we first met, what’s so different now?”

Dream swallowed the lump plugging his throat as he suddenly became significantly aware of the position George had moved him into, the gun cold against his burning palm as his finger ghosted about the trigger that could so easily finish everything.

Dream knew he should do it, he couldn’t leave George to suffer and watch himself become a monster just because his heart ached too much to let him go, but it was too difficult. The other man was so… ok with it! He had accepted his fate in its entirety like some long due karma and if Dream didn’t play god and do what he needed to do, the poison in George’s veins would burn him from the inside out and no matter how badly Dream yearned, there was no antidote for death.

Dream’s eyes widened as George smiled encouragingly at him, black veins growing increasingly stubborn in his wrists as the bags under his eyes only deepened further, the little scratches and cuts that had decorated his face and exposed skin stitching themselves shut painstakingly slowly as Dream slammed into a brick wall of realisation.

“Goodbye, stranger,” George bid, letting his eyes flutter closed in acceptance.

And the bullet exploded from the end of the gun like a firework into the night sky, Dream’s finger tight on the trigger as wisps of smoke poured from his weapon in celebration.



















And George stared at him in shock, eyes flying open at the loud bang with his heart still pumping with life that hadn’t yet drained from the hourglass as his chest collapsed with a deep breath that he had been holding, a breath he had assumed to be his last

Behind the pair, hidden in the trees a zombie stumbled, a neat hole blasted through its chest and rotten heart as brown-tinted blood oozed around the wound, the thing releasing a broken, strangled screech before collapsing into the tree it was waiting behind to pounce.

“I can’t do it,” Dream breathed shakily, holding back his manic laughter as his face streaked with tears. “I can’t fucking do it and you can’t expect me to!”

“Don’t be so selfish,” George hissed, throat closing over with agony as his arms jerked by his sides. “You can’t leave me to turn into one of those things just because your pussy ass cares too much!”

“You don’t get to tell me what it means to be selfish after everything you did,” Dream whispered, sniffling like a child as he wiped his nose with his sleeve. “Maybe I’m still a stranger to you but fuck, George, I can’t just let you go this easily.”

“You did listen, right?” George laughed agonisingly, eyes stubbornly closed as he felt the itch under the bandages of the bite marks healing over, the veins only darkening in their absence. “Poison, Dream. It’s like it’s fucking poisoning me and I can feel every little individual part of me shrivel up and die as that virus shoves its ugly ass into me,” George rambled, lunging for the gun with a ferocity Dream had only seen in the zombies. 

He hated that he flinched away. 

“You’re already seeing what it can do, you’re already afraid of the George you care about,” he sneered, jabbing a finger towards the weapon. “There’s one fucking antidote, Dream, and it’s one of those bullets in here,” he thrust his once battered arm into Dream’s tear-stricken face. “And here,” his index finger pressed firmly into his forehead, the skin around its nail stark white with the pressure. 

Dream fought against nature to heave another breath into his unwilling lungs as months worth of teasing comments, a year’s worth of crumpled pages and anger-filled notes along with a lifetime of memories crashed onto him without mercy, drowning him with their weight as George waited impatiently, finger as stubborn as himself as he glared, eyes burning with hellfire that he eagerly awaited. 

Poison, George had said it himself and there was no antidote for death. 

Dream finally took a breath. 

But perhaps they didn’t need one. 

“George, you’re a fucking genius,” he laughed as he moved without warning, tugging a resisting George off the destroyed bonnet of the jeep. “Fuck, I’d kiss you if your teeth weren’t covered in blood!”

“What the fuck are you doing?” George screeched, batting at Dream’s arms as the younger carried him away from the wreckage, planting him on the road as he tried to urge the elder back towards the house, back towards Wilbur and Sapnap. “Dream, I could kill you, I could kill them!”

Dream didn’t seem to be listening, forcing a stumbling George further down the road as the man fell over himself as he fought back, looking about as graceful as a newborn deer as Dream all but glowed with determination. 

“You won’t be killing anybody, George, not if this works.”

“Dream, stranger, fuck, I’m begging you to see sense,” George pleaded, tightly gripping Dream’s forearm as he winced, tremors running their course along his back and neck. “There’s no way to cure the virus.”

“No there’s not,” Dream cheerily agreed, holding George’s hands gently in his own. “But I think I know a way to get it out of you.”

Chapter Text

“Please, Dream, if I’m going to die I want you to be the one to do it,” George begged, guiding the gun easily to rest between his eyes as he stared up at Dream lovingly. “C’mon, stranger, you were so insistent you’d do it when we first met, what’s so different now?”

Dream swallowed the lump plugging his throat as he suddenly became significantly aware of the position George had moved him into, the gun cold against his burning palm as his finger ghosted about the trigger that could so easily finish everything.

Dream knew he should do it, he couldn’t leave George to suffer and watch himself become a monster just because his heart ached too much to let him go, but it was too difficult. The other man was so… ok with it! He had accepted his fate in its entirety like some long due karma and if Dream didn’t play god and do what he needed to do, the poison in George’s veins would burn him from the inside out and no matter how badly Dream yearned, there was no antidote for death.

Dream’s eyes widened as George smiled encouragingly at him, black veins growing increasingly stubborn in his wrists as the bags under his eyes only deepened further, the little scratches and cuts that had decorated his face and exposed skin stitching themselves shut painstakingly slowly as Dream slammed into a brick wall of realisation.

“Goodbye, stranger,” George bid, letting his eyes flutter closed in acceptance.

And the bullet exploded from the end of the gun like a firework into the night sky, Dream’s finger tight on the trigger as wisps of smoke poured from his weapon in celebration.

It was all too easy to believe that the body that slumped across the car wasn't George, Dream’s mind easily separating the two as the world fell silent in mourning.

He took a breath as he assessed what he had committed to, lining the gun up again to point at the throbbing wound on George’s limp arm and sending another bullet flying through the space between them, watching with a stomach of knots as the limb was nearly blown right off, the brown blood that pooled from the area almost screaming as it hissed against the metal, black veins retreating under his cold skin as the virus struggled to divide itself.

No dead weight is what George had told him but how ironic was it that that’s all George was now; cold, dead weight that if Dream valued his life even the slightest he would leave behind.

So George was right…

Dream almost dropped the gun with how loosely he was holding it, falling over his own feet as he stumbled away from the car and from him, splatters of his own blood mixing with the murky, incriminating shade of George’s as his body ached from its abuse, tears stinging his ducts as George’s soft, soft eyes stared at him during each frantic blink he took to chase his sorrows away.

He’s killed him, just like he’d killed his sister and mother and father and anyone that he had ever cared for.

Sapnap’s cheery face flashed through the forefront of his mind and he felt his heart tumble with want, arms pleading to hold the kid close and keep him safe from the horrors of the real world and protect him the way Dream should have protected all of them.

Would Sapnap even want to see him? Especially after he inevitably learns about what Dream did.

Dream was screaming before he could stop himself, sobs wracking his throat as he fell to his knees without the strength to hold himself up, any fight that once burned through his nerves dissipating as he all but gave up, the same damned gunshot echoing through the haunted caverns of his mind as he pulled desperately at his hair, hoping that if he pulled hard enough he could yank the thoughts from his skull and throw them away.

Only tufts of hair came forward from his insistent tugging and he watched helplessly as the blond chunks dropped to the ground next to his muddied knees. He eyed the gun he had at some point dropped cautiously, the weapon cool and unassuming in his palm once he recollected it as his finger curled around the trigger. He could feel the weight of the bullets in its chamber and for a moment, only a split second where his defences lowered, he wanted to heave it upwards and aim the gun into his jaw, letting the force of the explosion take him somewhere else, where his ghosts didn’t haunt him and the gods couldn’t judge him.

But that wasn't an option.

George had him there but Dream, as his brain helpfully reminded, was alone. No one to pull the trigger for the second time to stop Dream from becoming the very thing that had stolen his family from him.

He was better than that, he told himself. And even if it was a lie he knew damn well that he would have to be.

He could hear George’s taunts in his ear as he stared at the car wreck, seeing George’s body unmoving on the hood actually lending to a wave of relief washing over him. It had been so long since he last saw a body at peace and it was somehow comforting to know that George was finally away from the cruelty that had taken over, free from the shackles of blame and finally able to move on to a better world.

Dream knew that he would wait for him, more than likely with Dream’s sister and parents and his own mother, in his final moments.

Dream moved with surety, hands still a little shaky as he recovered from the collision, joints crying for reprieve as his chest stopped struggling to draw the air it needed. He collected his and George’s bags from the jeep, frowning at the weight and deciding he’d have to sift through whatever shit George had packed to deem what was worth bringing with him.

Tears continued to stain his face, soul-deep sadness remaining with its grip on his heart as he tried his hardest to put off the inevitable for as long as he could without risking his own safety; then George would have died for nothing.

He placed the bags aside but only after pulling an item from the side pocket of his own stuff, and he drew a deep breath that he stubbornly held in his lungs as he approached George again for the first time, seeing the massacre that he had laid upon the man’s unresponsive face and trying his best to ignore the stab of agony that drove through him at the sight.

He had no shovel or anything of the sort, so burying his body was out of the question, but Dream knew George would never appreciate being left out like this for any wild animal or zombie to take a pick of. He fiddled with the lighter in his palm as he dropped it into his pocket, for the time being, lugging George’s cold body off the jeep and laying it as gently as he could next to the rear end of the vehicle.

He had no idea what he was doing as he rolled George lightly over so that he was lying underneath the jeep, wedging his axe into the bottom of what he prayed was the fuel tank and watching with a cocktail of relief and dread as the petrol began to pour onto the ground and more importantly, George.

He let the tank drain before he lifted George’s soaking body from the ground, cringing as the petrol soaked into his own clothes, staining them a dirty rusted colour and ensuring he would smell of nothing but the fuel for weeks. He set him back down a considerable distance away from the car, carefully recollecting his lighter and watching the flame spark to life at the top as he walked away from George for the last time.

This was for the best.

He tossed the lighter without thinking any further, turning away as the flame made contact with the small puddle that had collected and walking back for his and George’s bags as the flames did their job.

He paid no mind to the putrid smell as he emptied George’s bag onto the ground, gathering any suitable clothes or edible food along with the water flasks George had kept filled in case of emergency and stuffing them into his own bag.

He kept anything still usable from George’s makeshift first-aid kit and just before he deemed the remaining items worthless he noticed it.

A stark white piece of paper folded neatly next to what Dream now realised was his old green hoodie. His breath caught in his throat as he grabbed the fabric, the rough material familiar under his fingers as the tell-tale smell of George mixed with his own boyish scent wafted from it. If he closed his eyes he could still feel the warmth of the person that had claimed it, not quite filling the clothing but still managing to make it his own.

By now, Dream knew what was coming with the folded piece of paper, remembering George in his bedroom before Dream had demanded they leave, bent over his desk with a pen in his grip as words poured from the ink into scrawled sentences on the page.

Part of him didn’t want to open it, much rather preferring to throw it into the fire raging behind him but he knew he shouldn’t. If he ever wanted any kind of closure, this is where he would find it.

All he had to do was look.

It was like his fingers were working against him as he struggled to unfold the paper, nails threatening to tear through it as he quickly grew frustrated, tears once again making themselves known behind his eyes, ready to pour upon command.

An eternity later and he finally opened the demeaned thing, hand-writing that was so unmistakably George staring up at him as his eyes drifted over the paragraphs, not managing to take in a single word but still feeling the brunt of the emotion behind every scrawl.

The urge to scrap the note resurfaced again, the heat of the nearby flames a tempting mistress but he relented, taking a deep breath as the paper crumpled in his tight grip.

George would have bullied the fuck out of him for how prissy he was acting.l

 

I’m gonna feel like an asshole no matter what I write here but I think an introduction would be too far, even for me.

 

It began.



I’m gonna assume it’s Dream reading this, at least I hope so cause fuck, Sapnap, Wilbur, whoever the fuck else this could be, I don’t have anything to say to you without making this worse for myself.

I’m a bad person, and no matter what you thought of me before, you know that now.

 

Dream choked on his tongue as he scanned through the words, eyes burning with the need to cry as his vision grew cloudy.

 

I broke Zombie Rule number one, didn’t I? I’m like a walking fucking movie trope and I know you’ve seen the movies, Dream, I know you know how this ends and if you’re reading this now then I know the credits are rolling. I had a good run, a much better one than what I deserved if we’re going to be honest.

Everyone knows the dick that started it all either dies in the first few minutes or goes down in a blaze of hell at the end so everyone else gets their happy ending.

I don’t deserve a happy ending.

 

The first tear fell, soaking through the thin page and smudging the ink as he read further.

 

I hid everything from you, the things I did, the people I hurt and this stupid fucking bite and I thought I could just keep running, I’ve survived this long from running, haven’t I?

It was easy with you and Sapnap there, cheering me on and fuck, for a few days, stranger, I thought we were gonna do it, I thought we’d finally ran far enough that we were gonna cross the finish line.

But there never was a finish line, was there?

That’s just another thing I hid from you both…

It was never about running towards a goal, it was running from the demons that had followed me from the pits of Hell to drag me back down with them. 

Well, I’m done with running now.

 

It was getting harder to breathe, even though Dream was in the open. His lungs were deflating like a punctured tire and there was nothing he could do to patch it as he clutched at his burning chest in a silent cry for help.

 

You’re downstairs right now, with Sapnap and Wilbur. I don’t know what you’re talking about since you kicked me out but I deserved it, you should have done it a long time ago. I’m dangerous to be around, Dream. Wilbur warned you and fuck even though I knew you should have left, I was selfish and I treasured every second that you stayed.

Even if it did come back to bite me, all the puns intended.

I’m not going to let myself run away anymore, I’m gonna run headfirst into whatever the gods have planned for me, if they even exist. Is this karma? Mother Nature maybe? I don’t know but I’ve avoided those answers long enough.

By the time you’re reading this, I’m already gone, as cliché as that sounds.

 

Dream knew that all too well, the smell a constant reminder as the heat on his back kept him warm, like some twisted hug from George to keep him safe in the open as he chased his closure in the words on the abused page.

 

It was nice knowing you, stranger, if I can even call you that anymore. Maybe we could have been something more but it’s time we stopped knowing each other.

There are plenty more strangers out there, Dream. I’m not the first or the last one you’ll meet but I hope the next one can be there for you in every way that I couldn’t.

It’s what you deserve, you persistent asshole.

 

There was nothing else on the page and Dream heaved around another sob as he grabbed at the bottom of the page in a desperate search for any more words that George might have hidden in the margins, desperately chasing after more, not quite ready to let George go.

There was nothing else left of him, only these final words scrawled onto a throwaway piece of file paper that was oozing with his personality, the note impossible to read without George narrating it in your head and once Dream’s sudden panic subsided he clutched it close to his chest, pressing the words to his heart as he sniffled, picking the hoodie back up from where he had dropped it and burying his face in its green depths and wailing as he felt the very essence of George that had been stitched into the clothing fading into nothingness like it had never even been there.

But he couldn’t really be surprised, strangers were just that, people that came and went. 

You never really know a stranger, Dream realised, and he’d never really known George at all.